Hibiscus tea is the infusion made from the calyces (sepals)
of the Hibiscus sabdariffa flower, a herbal tea drink consumed both hot and cold
by people around the world. It is also referred to as roselle (another common
name for the hibiscus flower), flor de Jamaica in Latin America, karkady in the
Middle East, bissap in West Africa,
sorrel in Jamaica, and red sorrel in the
wider Caribbean, and other names in other regions.
Left: A glass of
Agua de Jamaica (Cold Hibiscus Tea) in a restaurant in Cuernavaca,
Hibiscus tea has a tart,
cranberry-like flavor, and sugar is often added to sweeten the beverage. The tea
contains vitamin C and minerals and is used traditionally as a mild medicine.
Hibiscus tea contains 15-30% organic acids, including citric acid, maleic acid,
and tartaric acid. It also contains acidic polysaccharides and flavonoid
glycosides, such as cyanidin and delphinidin, that give it its characteristic
deep red colour.
"Agua de Flor de Jamaica", also
called agua de Jamaica and rosa de jamaica, is popular in Jamaica, Mexico,
Central America, and parts of South America and the Caribbean. It is one of
several common aguas frescas, which are inexpensive beverages typically made
from fresh juices or extracts. Agua de Flor de Jamaica is usually prepared by
steeping the calyces, along with ginger (in Jamaica), in boiling water,
straining the mixture, pressing the calyces (to squeeze all the juice out),
adding sugar, and sometimes a little rum (in Jamaica), and stirring. It is
Dried hibiscus calyces, often labeled Flor de Jamaica, have long been available
in health food stores in the United States for making this tea, especially in
California and other areas influenced by Mexican customs. Flor de Jamaica has a
reputation for being a mild natural diuretic.
Left: Bag of Flor de
Jamaica calyces from Mexico, manufactured by Comercial Mexicana.