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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hibiscus Tea – Healthy, Refreshing & Delicious

Agua de jamaica (pronounced hah-MY-kah), is an infusion of dried red hibiscus flowers.  The taste is slightly tart and refreshing. If you’ve ever had red zinger tea, it’s a little like that. Or a little like cranberry juice I love to add some fresh squeazed juice which makes it almost punch-like.
Hibiscus tea (an infusion actually) is popular all around the world. The hibiscus flower grows in tropical and semi-tropical climates. hibiscus trees are plentyful all over Los Angeles. You can find the dried hibiscus flowers at almost any Mexican market (look for “flor de jamaica”), I’ve bought them at Trader Joes or you can order them online but I like to pick them fresh from the garden.
The tea is a natural diuretic and has lots of Vitamin C. There’s also at least one government study that shows that hibiscus tea lowers blood pressure.

Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea) Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • 2 quarts water
  • 6-10 Fresh flowers or 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
  • 1/2 to 1 cup sugar (optional – depending on how sweet you would like it to be)
  • 1-2 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • A few thin slices ginger (optional)
  • Allspice berries (optional)
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon or 2-3 oranges (optional)
  •  lime juice (optional)
  • Orange or lime slices for garnish


1 Put 4 cups of the water in a medium saucepan. Heat until boiling.
2 Turn off heat, add sugar, cinnamon, ginger slices, and/or a few allspice berries if you would like.  Stir in the hibiscus flowers.
2 Cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain into a pitcher and discard the used hibiscus flowers, ginger, cinnamon, and/or allspice berries.
(At this point you can store ahead the concentrate, chilled, until ready to make the drink.)
3 Add remaining 4 cups of water, freshly squeazed juice, (or if you want to chill the drink quickly, ice and water) to the concentrate, and chill. Alternatively you can add ice and chilled soda water for a bubbly version. Add a little lime juice for a more punch-like flavor.
*I prefer an unsweetened drink so choose to infuse the flowers without the sugar and after half an hour I pour half into a jug and set that aside for adult consumption.
Then added 4 teaspoons of icing sugar to the remainder which dissolves rapidly in the still warm infusion, before adding the juice of 2 large (freshly picked from the garden) oranges and chilled water for the children.
Serve over ice with a slice of orange or lime.
Yield: Makes 2 quarts.
Scientists in Taiwan reported in The Journal of the Science of Food Agriculture that hibiscus tea made from the hibiscus flower (Hibiscus sabdariffa) may help control cholesterol, and thereby reduce the risk of heart disease. Scientists stated that the extract from the hibiscus flower significantly lowered the cholesterol content in the blood serum of lab animals, and successfully prevented oxidation of low-density lipoprotein. The extract has also been used in folk medicine to treat high blood pressure and liver disorder.

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