How to Make Jamaica (Hibiscus Iced Tea)

Even in San Diego, it gets hot.

I’m not complaining, really, at least not too much. We don’t have A/C, but at least it’s not like that horrible summer of 2011, when I would, for some reason, straighten my hair every single morning, only to have it curl up from sweat by the time I arrived at the newsroom. No, fortunately San Diego doesn’t have that humidity and the weeks of never-ending heat like Virginia.

But when my mom and sister visited recently, the sun’s rays were relentless, giving us days  in the upper-80s and 90s, while they were practically turning on the heat back home. Of course, we had to keep hydrated, with water, margaritas, sangria, beer, more margaritas, and jamaica.

How to Make Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)

Jamaica–not that Caribbean country, pronounce it Hah-My-Kah–is hibiscus iced tea. You’ll find it at virtually every taqueria and Mexican spot, near the soda dispenser. The tea is almost a punch, cool and refreshing, a brilliant shade of pink, a little tart and a little sweet, like cranberry juice. Jamaica seems to be the drink of San Diego.

And it’s easy to make at home.

The best place to pick up the dried hibiscus flowers is at Hispanic markets. In bulk, the flowers are cheap–just $3.49 per pound at Pancho Villa on El Cajon Boulevard. A huge bag of hibiscus may not even be 1 pound.

How to Make Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)

How to Make Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)

My mom picked up a bag to take back home with her, since loose hibiscus (or tea bags) can be pricey at most stores elsewhere.

How to Make Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)

Aren’t the flowers beautiful? (Tom gave me a hibiscus plant for my 25th birthday, and every time a hot pink flower opens up, I get so happy. These plants are everywhere in San Diego.)

I’ve been following these directions from 101 Cookbooks to make a traditional hot-brewed tea. One day, I’ll try the cold-brew method that I’ve read about elsewhere.

Making the tea only takes a few minutes–and a few paper towels to avoid staining your kitchen pink.

How to Make Jamaica (Hibiscus Iced Tea)

Start with 4 cups boiling water, about 1/2 cup hibiscus flowers, and from 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending on your preferences for sweet-tart.

How to Make Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)

Stir the hibiscus and sugar into the hot water and let it steep, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to make sure the sugar dissolves.

How to Make Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)

Strain the flowers out–try to be careful because the tea has a tendency to splash here! Add 2 cups cold water (and some ice cubes, if you want to drink it immediately) and let tea cool.


How to Make Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)



Serve over plenty of ice, and enjoy! I like a big squeeze of lime in my glass. For this pitcher, I experimented with adding a few lime slices and a sprig of mint while it was still warm, to infuse the flavors. (Be sure to fish them out within a few hours or your tea may taste a little off.)  A cinnamon stick is another common addition, from what I’ve read, which would give the drink a warmness. A coffee/tea shop in Old Town sells a delicious blueberry iced tea, but it’s $$$. My mom discovered that if you add some blueberry tea bags while you’re steeping, you’ll get that berry flavor just as nicely.

2 thoughts on “How to Make Jamaica (Hibiscus Iced Tea)

  1. I’m trying to figure out how to simply do a cold rehydration of dried hibiscus flowers. What I want is simply some limp (similar to wilted) petals that haven’t had the color diluted out of them by boiling. I want to use the petals to be pliable enough to stick to a surface but still retain it’s maximum staining capacity. The dried flowers obviously wouldn’t be able to do this. I hope you have an answer.

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