Another ruby red juice! Today, it’s rosa de jamaica, which I drank for the first time in Guatemala. On my latest trip, I eagerly drank some as soon as I arrived and didn’t stop until I went home! This simple drink is made from the dried sepals (the part that holds the petals) of hibiscus flower. You infuse the dried hibiscus in boiling water and sugar.This beverage is enjoyed either chilled or hot.
On our trip this summer, I learned the secret of my husband’s Aunt Patricia’s fragrant jamaica. All she did is add a cinnamon stick to the boiling jamaica and sugar.I was so mesmerized by the brilliant red that I don’t quite remember the amounts she used. So, I referred to this recipe for Mexican agua de jamaica from 101 Cookbooks. I like my jamaica tart so I added only one cup of water to the drink after straining the hibiscus, and I did not add any more than the first ½ cup of sugar. Take note of her advice: the brilliant red juice stains! If you want to replicate Aunt Patricia’s recipe, add a cinnamon stick.
Jamaica is ubiquitous throughout Central America, as well as in the Caribbean. It’s also enjoyed in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. It’s harder to find here than in Guatemala, but not impossible, especially since there are many Latin and Caribbean markets in South Florida. Even though I’d enjoyed hibiscus tea before, I wasn’t quite sure if it was the same thing. In fact, hibiscus is also known as red sorrel, bissap, roselle, and karkady. However, I suspect that products sold as jamaica and red sorrel may be cheaper than the now gourmet hibiscus tea.
Please let me know if you find jamaica at your local market.One person told me that she sometimes finds jamaica in Sedano’s, although a recent search at the one on Miller and 147th yielded no results.
Lucky for you, hibiscus tea is a prize in Miami Dish’s First Anniversary Contest. You can enter to win a 2 ounce tin of hibiscus from Theine, along with other prizes, just by leaving me a comment with your first name, what city you live in, and why you read Miami Dish !
For more about sorrel wine, a drink made with the same plant throughout the Caribbean, check out my other project, Sound Bite.