Typically teas are associated with flowery, herbal, or earthy notes. Hibiscus tea is nothing like that. Although this tea comes from the hibiscus flower, it’s quite tart and tastes very similar to cranberry juice.
Like most kids growing up in Los Angeles, I tasted my first hibiscus tea (agua de jamaica) at King Taco. At the time, I had no idea what agua de jamaica was. Was it soda, tea, juice? It didn’t matter, I was drawn to its pretty red color. After one sip, I was hooked. This sweet, tart, and refreshing drink was amazing. It’s the perfect drink to cool my mouth after a big bite of carne asada taco covered in red sauce.
Hibiscus is known in the Philippines as gumamela. Gumamela tea is a popular drink known to have healthy benefits. The most popular– helping to reduce high blood pressure as well as supposedly lowering the risk of stroke and heart attack. Those benefits are just another plus because hibiscus tea tastes so darn good.
I buy my dried hibiscus flowers in bulk at my favorite local Latin supermarket. You should be able to find it at well stocked supermarkets in the spice section, usually with the giant spice bags from Mexico. And if you can’t find it there, try the tea section where hibiscus is sold in prepackaged tea bags.
While I love traditional hibiscus tea, I wanted to experiment with some spices and herbs. I made a batch infused with cinnamon and another with fresh mint leaves. You can also try steeping some fruits in the drink to make a non-alcoholic sangria like beverage.
The trend in Los Angeles this summer seems to be all about cold brew. Cold brew coffee (here’s my go-to cold brew coffee recipe) and cold brew tea are all the rage. For good reason because the drink is less bitter and more flavorful.
- Place a rounded 1/2 cup of dried hibiscus in a large pitcher. Add additional spices and herbs, as desired. Pour in 4 cups cold water.
- Cover pitcher and let chill in the fridge overnight or up to 24 hours. I wouldn’t recommend more than 24 hours because it may get too bitter. When the tea is ready it will turn a beautiful deep dark red.
- Strain tea. Discard dried hibiscus.
- Sweeten tea as desired with simples syrup (agave or any other sweetener you prefer) and transfer to a large pitcher. Store in the fridge until ready to serve. Serve over plenty of ice.
Hibiscus tea is tart when unsweetened. You can drink it as is to reap the benefits of the tea without any added calories. Many people like to add a squeeze of lime to make it a bit more refreshing. I like to sweeten my tea with a little simple syrup, but any sweetener works (honey, agave, etc).
Adding cinnamon to hibiscus tea makes it tastes more like tamarind juice, which I like very much. And if you want to intensify the cinnamon notes, cinnamon infused simple syrup will do the trick. I think I’ll be serving this during Christmas time. The ruby red color is just warm and inviting.
And the winner of my tea experiments was the mint hibiscus tea! It was my hands down FAVORITE! It’s tropical, mojito-like, and goes down so smooth. There are so many other infusions to try: ginger, allspice, orange peel, lavender, etc. I foresee lots of hibiscus tea in my future.
Cold Brew Hibiscus Tea (Agua de Jamaica)
Tart, slightly sweet, and super refreshing, iced hibiscus tea is an excellent summer beverage. Plus, its said to have health benefits like lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
Yield: about 1 quart
- 1/2 cup dried hibiscus
- 4 cup water
- optional: cinnamon stick or handful fresh mint leaves
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- optional flavor: cinnamon stick or handful fresh mint leaves, torn
- Place dried hibiscus and optional spices/herbs in a large pitcher. Pour in 4 cups water. Cover with lid and place in the fridge overnight or up to 24 hours.
- Strain tea and discard dried hibiscus.
- Sweeten tea as desired with simple syrup. Start with 1/3 cup simple syrup for a lightly sweetened tea or up to 1 cup for a sweet tea. Store in the fridge until ready to serve. Serve over plenty of ice.
- Place water and sugar in a sauce pot. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and transfer to another container. Let cool to room temperature then store in the fridge.
- To make flavor simple syrup, add spices/herbs to water and sugar in sauce pot. Bring to boil until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and cover with lid. Let spices/herbs steep for 15-20 minutes. Taste, if you want flavor to be stronger let steep longer. Transfer to airtight container and store in the fridge.
Hibiscus tea lasts up to a week in the fridge.
Simple syrup lasts up to 1 month in the fridge.
The Little Epicurean