Next time you come across one of these bags of Hibiscus flowers, consider buying it -- you can use them to make a delicious batch of Agua de Jamaica, one of Mexico's most common agua frescas.
You'll definitely find these Hibiscus flowers in Hispanic markets, but even some general grocers are starting to carry them. Sometimes you'll see them labeled as Flor de Jamaica.
Give 'em a squeeze and buy the ones that are still soft, if they are hard and brittle they are probably a bit past their prime.
Then it's just a matter of steeping the flowers and you've got an authentic batch of Agua de Jamaica on your hands.
Agua de Jamaica Recipe
Most restaurants in Mexico that offer Comida Corrida will serve up an agua fresca alongside the day's special. Here's a menu from a Comida Corrida spot in Cozumel.
Don't let the chaos of that awesome menu board fool you -- it was real deal Mexican food. You can see the Comida Corrida options on the board to the right -- all for 60 pesos!
And served up with a daily agua fresca that could include Tamarind water, Horchata, Watermelon water, or of course...Agua de Jamaica.
Agua de Jamaica is as close to the source as you can get, and it might make you view the tea aisle in the supermarket from a newfound perspective.
The process is simple. And ancient.
Add 1.5 cups of Hibiscus flowers to a pot along with 4 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil and then remove the pot from the heat.
Set aside, cover, and let this steep until it cools, 30 minutes or so.
Strain the mixture and discard the flowers (although some people save them for tacos?!!).
You're left with 4 cups of Agua de Jamaica concentrate that will conveniently fit into a quart-sized Mason jar.
This is a concentrated mixture that will give you leeway on how much you want to dilute and sweeten the final product.
Most versions in Mexico are bombed with sugar, but for me that is no bueno and over time I've been using less and less sugar. I've also stopped diluting it as much (by adding water) and instead prefer to drink it when it's potent and barely sweetened.
So you can consider the instructions in the recipe box below a starting point only, feel free to adjust based on your palate. (Most peeps will want a little more sugar.)
I use a 1:1 concentrate-to-water ratio when making a batch. So we'll add the 4 cups of concentrate to a 2 quart sized pitcher along with 4 cups of water.
My starting point for 1 cup of concentrate is 1 Tablespoon of sugar, so we'll add 4 Tablespoons of sugar (1/4 cup) to the pitcher. Combine well and take a taste, adding more sugar if you want. White sugar is most commonly used but you can definitely substitute honey or agave.
Serve over ice and just like that you've got a delicious, homemade Agua de Jamaica that is as close to the source as you can get.
It has a light, satisfying, tart flavor that is a great accompaniment to spicy foods or grumpy mornings.
There are all sorts of ways to customize this (ginger, bubbly water, spirits, wine) but the more I have it the simpler it becomes. There's something grounding about a simple, potent batch.
So the next time you come across a bag of Jamaica flowers toss 'em in your shopping cart. Who knows, maybe it will have you questioning your morning beverage and heading towards something a bit simpler.
Agua de Jamaica -- Hibiscus Iced Tea
- 1.5 cups Hibiscus flowers (Flor de Jamaica)
- 4 cups water (for steeping)
- 1/4 cup sugar (or agave)
- 4 cups water (for diluting)
- Add 1.5 cups of Hibiscus flowers to a saucepan along with 4 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil and then remove from the heat. Cover and let steep until it cools, 30 minutes or so.
- Strain the mixture and discard the leftover flowers. You'll end up with 4 cups of Agua de Jamaica concentrate.
- I use a 1:1 concentrate-to-water ratio and approximately 1 Tablespoon of sugar per cup of concentrate, but you can easily alter these once you give it a taste. Add 4 cups of concentrate to a 2 quart sized pitcher along with 4 cups of cold water and 1/4 cup of sugar. Combine well and take a taste, adding more sugar or diluting further if you want to.
- Serve over ice and store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.
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This was a huge hit with the kids at our family Halloween party. They loved the look of the dark red "blood." They didn't even want sweetener!