Before moving to Los Angeles I was a total Mexican food amateur. Sure I grew up in a Latin household, but the cuisines of Peru and Colombia couldn’t be more different than what one would eat in Mexico.
My idea of Mexican food was limited to “authentic” burritos and tacos. I assumed it was all the same because for the most part Peruvian food isn’t that varied throughout the country. Same goes for Colombian food. Those two countries, for the most part, eat mainly the same foods in all regions. When I moved to LA, I realized how varied Mexican food actually is.
I finally understood the differences between Oaxacan moles, the fish tacos from Baja and the cemitas from Puebla. But one item I see in all Mexican restaurants regardless of region or specialty is agua de jamaica (pronounced: xa’majka – the “j” is silent).
It’s usually chilling in one of those great big tubs next to the other agua frescos like canteloupe, watermelon and horchata. I always choose the jamaica. Always.
What is hibiscus flower tea?
It’s exactly what it sounds like: tea made from hibiscus! There is a certain variety of hibiscus flowers that are grown and left to mature to a certain point. Once they start to shrivel up they’re picked and dried and used to make tea, among other things.
What’s the translation of Agua de Jamaica?
The literal translation is water of hibiscus, but agua in Mexico is used as a general term to label the actual translation of water along with a lot of the drink options you can get at restaurants.
How to make Agua de Jamaica:
- Make a simple syrup. Mix together the sugar and vanilla bean caviar in a saucepan then add water and bring to a boil. I like the flavor of the vanilla, however if you don’t have it it’s fine!
- Steep the hibiscus. Once the water has come up to a boil, remove the pan from the heat and add the dried hibiscus along with the aromatics to steep.
- Cool the syrup. After the flowers have steeped, remove them and let the mixture cool completely.
- Dilute. Add enough water to your taste preference and serve over ice.
- 1/2 cup cane or white sugar
- 1/4 vanilla bean, scraped
- 3 1/2 cups filtered water
- 1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers, plus a few more for garnish
- 1/2 orange
- 1 cinnamon stick
- In a small bowl and using your hands, mix together the vanilla bean caviar and sugar, making sure the vanilla is evenly distributed. Add the vanilla bean sugar and water to a saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat.
- Stir in the hibiscus flowers, juice from 1/2 of an orange and cinnamons stick. Cover the pan and allow the tea to steep for 15-20 minutes and until the mixture is a deep purple(ish)/red(ish) color.
- Run the tea through a strainer, discarding the tea leaf mixture and transfer the concentrate to the refrigerator to cool. When ready to serve, mix in 1 1/2 cups water to dilute. (Note: I personally liked it slightly diluted; give it a taste and if you don't, then simply don't add the water.) Pour over ice, garnish with a few hibiscus flowers, orange slices of lime slices.
Did you make this recipe? Let me know on instagram!
Looking for more drink recipes? Here are some of my favorites: