Iced hibiscus tea is a delicacy all around the world, but if you have been to a Mexican kitchen or home you have definitely heard of Agua de Jamaica. Agua de Jamaica is a translation of “hibiscus water” and is a classic agua fresca taken as an accompaniment for the mid-day meal in Mexico. The traditional and typical Mexican agua de Jamaica preparation involves the use of only three ingredients- dried hibiscus flowers, water, and sugar.
The beverage is the commonly known “iced hibiscus tea” is highly refreshing and delicious as it has a sweet and distinctively tart taste. It is typically prepared by first steeping hibiscus flowers referred to as flor de Jamaica. The steeping results into a concentrate that is normally diluted with water and sweetened using sugar.
Agua de Jamaica is a great substitute for soda. The beverage has a flavorful cranberry-like taste hence the sweetening. Agua de Jamaica is highly popular in Mexican taquerias, and you will spot it from far as it has a deep, bright red hue.
Where can you get hibiscus flowers?
Hibiscus flowers are readily available in natural food grocery stores, or they can be ordered online. A great option to purchase from online is Mexgrocer or Amazon. In case you have a hibiscus plant, then you can readily pick the flower petals. These will yield an incredibly flavorful beverage, especially if fresh.
Benefits of agua de Jamaica
Besides the beverage being highly refreshing on a hot afternoon, it offers a wide variety of benefits. It is a great source of Vitamin C and a natural diuretic. Studies have shown that the beverage can help in lowering blood pressure. The hibiscus contained in the beverage helps in reducing hormonal imbalances, boosting immunity, and is rich in antioxidants.
- 2 cups of dried hibiscus flowers
- 8 cups of water and some extra to taste.
- ½ a cup, sugar for each pitcher and more to taste
- 2 half-gallon pitchers
- A large pot
- Strainer or colander
- Kitchen spoon
- Glasses or mason jars to serve.
Preparation Method and Cooking Instructions
Preparation time: Approx. 2 minutes
Cook time: Approx. 15 minutes
Total time: Approx. 17 minutes
Preparing the Hibiscus concentrate
- In the large pot, pour the 8 cups of cold water.
- Add in the 2 cups of the dried hibiscus flowers into the cold water and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Immediately the water boils, reduce the heat to low and allow for the mixture to simmer for a maximum of ten minutes.
- Now turn off the heat and leave the hibiscus concentrate to cool. Using your strainer or colander, strain the steeped flowers by pouring over the concentrate into one of the pitchers. At this point, the concentrate should have reduced to about 1.5 Quarts (6 cups). This is because the flowers absorb some of the water. Discard the used flowers.
Preparing the pitcher of Agua de Jamaica
- Into your other pitcher, put 1/3 of the hibiscus concentrate and add in the sugar according to your liking and preference. The best way is to gradually add the sugar.
- Fill up the pitcher with cool water and vigorously stir for the water to dissolve.
- Chill the beverage or serve over ice cubes using the mason jars or glasses. Enjoy!
Serving Instructions and Suggestions
- Agua de Jamaica is served best chilled and very sweet. It can, however, be served tart by lessening the amount of sugar used. For a tart agua de Jamaica, you would simply reduce the amount of sugar used to about ¼ cup.
- You can serve the beverage individually, or you can serve it as an accompaniment for a meal.
- Agua de Jamaica is best served in hot or warm weather.
- A sliced orange or lime can be used as a garnish.
Tricks and pro tips
- Use fresh hibiscus flowers to yield the best tasting Agua de Jamaica. Fresh leaves will easily bend. If the flowers are not pliable, hard, or brittle, they are not fresh.
- To find out if the concentrate is ready for use, you should notice that the flowers will sink to the pot’s bottom after absorbing the water.
- If you intend to use ice cubes when serving, do not add too much water into the concentrate. Add just enough as the ice will dilute it even further as it melts.
- The traditional concentrate is usually very strong, so as you add the sugar, consider your sweetness liking and preference.
- Hibiscus leaves stains, so you will need to be careful during preparation.
- The traditional recipe calls for using hibiscus flowers, but today, these can be substituted with hibiscus tea bags which are readily available in grocery stores and supermarkets.
- For those of you that are health conscious and highly sensitive to sugar, do not worry that you cannot enjoy this rejuvenating beverage. You can sweeten the beverage with the sweetener of your choice. Great options include honey, splenda, stevia, agave syrup, or piloncillo.
Additions and extra touches
- For that extra flavor, you can add in a cinnamon stick, lemongrass, grated ginger, or mint into the water during steeping.
- We all know the magic lime juice does. Don’t we? Try squeezing a little bit of lime juice and add it to the final product to boost the tart flavor and to attain a punch like tasting beverage.
- In need of a bubbly version? Try adding sparkling water or soda water to the agua de Jamaica concentrate.
Serving size:11 ozs.( 1.375 cups)
- Calories: 129kcal
- Carbohydrates: 33g
- Sodium: 5mg
- Sugar: 33g
After straining the hibiscus leaves, you can choose to store the concentrate for later use or until you are ready to use it. The concentrate can be refrigerated for 4-5 days in a glass jar or a sealed container. Sealing the storage container ensures that the concentrate does not absorb other food flavors in the refrigerator.