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Agua de Jamaica – Savoring Mexico: A Travel Cookbook, 1980

April 5, 2013
Dried Jamaica Flowers

Dried hibiscus flowers (called “jamaica” in Mexico) used for brewing a kind of tea. For sale at a tianguis market in Metepec, Mexico. [3]

Cadwallader, Sharon. Savoring Mexico: A Travel Cookbook . New York : McGraw-Hill, 1980. [TX716 .M4 C32 1980]

In 1899, Joseph Nelson Rose described seeing baskets of flor de jamaica in the markets of Guadalajara and observed, “One of the most popular of the summer drinks of Mexico is made from ‘jamaica.’ Jamaica is made from the involucres, calyces, and capsules of Hibiscus sabdariffa,” [which] gives to the water a reddish color and a slightly acid taste.”[1]

Flor de jamaica, also known as roselle, hibiscus, red sorrel, Florida cranberry, is a herbaceous shrub with an edible calyx. Native to the Old World, roselle was likely brought to the New World by African slaves and has now naturalized in much of the West Indies and Central America.[2]

Just as Rose observed over 100 years ago, the dried calyces make delicious aguas frescas when they are soaked in water. The resulting tisane is usually sweetened with sugar to offset the astringent, cranberry-like taste and served cold as a refreshing summer beverage.

Agua de Jamaica

  • 1 ounce (approximately) Jamaica blossoms
  • 1 1/2 quarts water
  • Sugar to taste
  • Lime juice to taste
  • Crushed ice

Put the Jamaica blossoms in a bowl and pour 2 cups cold water over them.  Let this steep for 1 hour or until the water takes on a deep burgundy color.  Strain out the blossoms and discard.  Add remaining water and sugar and lime juice to taste.  Serve over crushed ice, garnished with a lime slice.  Makes 1 ½ quarts. 

[1] Rose, Joseph Nelson. Notes on Useful Plants of Mexico. (U.S. G.P.O., 1899): 225.

[2] Morton, Julia F. Roselle. “Hibiscus sabdariffa L.” NewCROP Database. Accessed 5 April 2013.

[3] Thelmadatter. Dried hibiscus flowers (called “jamaica” in Mexico) used for brewing a kind of tea. For sale at a tianguis market in Metepec, Mexico. 20 July 1999. Used by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 8, 2013 11:13 am

    Agua de jamaica is so wonderfully refreshing.

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