I’m not sure how I missed this drink. I was probably busy trying all the different flavoured margaritas. Mango, anyone? Tamarind? Passion fruit? Classic?
This was not my first visit to Mexico, but it was the first time being introduced to what has become my new favourite drink, agua de jamaica (pronounced hah-My-kah).
It turns out, jamaica, or hibiscus, is an infusion that is served either hot or cold and is popular all around the world. It is made from the the calyces (sepals) of the roselle or Hibiscus sabdariffa flower.
I bought bags of jamaica from the little tienda where I was staying for 12 pesos for a 100g bag. It’s available here in health food stores and speciality shops or can be purchased online.
I wasn’t quite expecting the beauty of jamaica when it was first served to me icy cold on a sweltering afternoon. The deep magenta/maroon colour was just so rich and appealing.
Not only is agua de jamaica beautiful, but it’s also thirst quenching and full of Vitamin C. It’s slightly tart so is often served with some sugar or honey added. This drink will certainly “up your iced tea” game in the summer, so I thought I’d include a recipe of sorts. This will make about 8 cups.
Agua de Jamaica
4 cups of water
1/4 to 1/2 cup dried jamaica flowers (hibiscus)
1/2 cup of sugar (or to taste) *I used less because I rather like the tartness.
Another 3 or 4 cups of water
1 lime thinly sliced
Optional: 1/2 cinnamon stick, thinly sliced ginger, a few allspice berries.
Add: 4 cups of water and 1/2 cup of sugar (or to taste) to a saucepan of water. If you are wanting to add some of the optional flavouring ingredients, now is the time to do so. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and bring the water to a boil. Once boiled take the pan off the heat and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of jamaica flowers. Cover and leave to steep for fifteen to twenty minutes.
Strain the infusion into a pitcher or jug. You can leave this concentration in the fridge and add the additional water when ready to serve or you can do so now. The recommended amount of water to add to this concentrate is 3 to 4 cups depending on the strength you desire.
Serve: Pour into glasses over ice cubes. Add a slice of lime and your agua jamaica is ready to be enjoyed.
If an individual serving of hot or cold jamaica is desired, put a pinch of jamaica in your teapot, add boiling water, and steep for about five minutes. Strain and add sweetener.