The flower with a thousand uses, Jamaica: Recipes and Origin

Agua de Jamaica (hibiscus tea) has been a staple in Mexican culture. Especially during the warmer months, nothing beats the refreshment of a chilled agua fresca, with Agua de Jamaica being a favorite choice. Its vibrant red hue and its rich presence in Mexican gastronomy have made it a celebrated ingredient, finding its way into everything from tacos and quesadillas to sauces, soups, liquors, desserts, and even snacks.

Join us in this special blog where we incorporate flor de Jamaica (dried hibiscus flowers) into three unique recipes to celebrate Mexican food’s versatility while embracing a zero-waste approach. These recipes showcase the depth of flavor and vibrant color that hibiscus flowers can bring to both traditional and innovative Mexican dishes. After all, that is what Lolo is all about!

Where is Agua de Jamaica from?

Despite its deep-rooted presence in Mexican cuisine, Agua de Jamaica is, surprisingly, not native to Mexico. It might shock many to learn that this beloved flower is actually an import, brought over by Europeans from the Philippines.

The flower responsible for this iconic drink is the hibiscus sabdariffa (malvaceae), which arrived via the Nao de China, Spanish galleons that traversed the Pacific Ocean from the Philippines to New Spain starting in 1565.

The journey of hibiscus to Mexico likely began in Acapulco, Guerrero, a city pivotal for the disembarkation of these trans-Pacific voyages. Its origins, however, stretch back even further to Tropical Africa—Egypt, Sudan, and Senegal—where it was cultivated not for its culinary uses but for its fibers, used to create durable textiles akin to henequen. So, Jamaica is one of the many other gifts we owe to Africa.

Today, Guerrero is a leading producer of hibiscus in Mexico, with 18,000 hectares farmed by 6,000 growers. Its cultivation is also significant in Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Nayarit, focusing on a native variety planted exclusively during the spring-summer cycle. A significant portion of the national production is sold in bulk, with the remainder processed into wines, concentrates, jams, snacks, preserves, and, of course, the ever-popular aguas frescas.

Interestingly, Mexicans enjoy two varieties of Jamaica: a domestic one, renowned for its quality and vibrant red color, and a Chinese variety, smaller and darker. The domestic variety commands a higher price and is sought after in upscale or gourmet markets like San Juan, San Ángel, or Coyoacán, while the Chinese variety is more widely available in the country's popular markets.

So, let’s jump into the recipes, shall we? For that, we will begin with the basic: Making Agua de Jamaica.

  1. Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea) - The Base Recipe

Start with the basic Agua de Jamaica recipe as the foundation. This refreshing drink will be the first step in utilizing the hibiscus flowers, after which you can repurpose the steeped flowers for more fun and original dishes.


1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
4 cups water (divided for different uses)
½ to 1 cup sugar (adjust to taste)


Boil 3 cups of water and pour over the hibiscus flowers. Let them steep for about 20 minutes.

Strain, reserving the flowers, and mix the liquid with sugar while hot until dissolved. Add the remaining cup of water to dilute. Chill and serve as a refreshing drink.


  1. Jamaica and Beet Salad (Ensalada de Jamaica y Betabel)

After making the agua de Jamaica, don't discard the steeped flowers. Instead, use them to create a delicious salad. This salad uses the vibrant color of hibiscus flowers and beets, offering a dish that's as beautiful as it is nutritious.


Steeped hibiscus flowers (remainder from agua de Jamaica)
2 medium beets, roasted, peeled, and diced
½ cup carrots, julienned
¼ cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Mixed greens as the salad base
Optional: goat cheese or feta, pumpkin seeds for garnish


In a large bowl, combine the diced beets, julienned carrots, and steeped hibiscus flowers.

Whisk together the orange juice, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to create a dressing.

Toss the beet and hibiscus mixture with the dressing, then serve over a bed of mixed greens.

Garnish with crumbled goat cheese or feta and pumpkin seeds for added texture and flavor.


  1. Jamaica Sorbet (Sorbet de Jamaica)

If you have any agua de Jamaica left over, consider turning it into a delightful sorbet, perfect for a light dessert.


2 cups agua de Jamaica (prepared from the first recipe)
¾ cup sugar (adjust based on the sweetness of your agua de Jamaica)
2 tablespoons lime juice


Combine the agua de Jamaica with sugar and lime juice, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions until it reaches a sorbet consistency.

Freeze until firm. Serve as a refreshing dessert, garnished with lime zest or fresh mint leaves.



Jamaica, besides being tasty, is nutritious, attributed with diuretic, laxative, and antibacterial properties. It contains large amounts of vitamins A, C, B1, and E, and minerals such as iron, phosphorus, and calcium.

It is difficult to imagine Mexico without Jamaica. We see it coloring every celebration, present in various dishes, desserts, but above all, in the traditional agua fresca; it is a flower with a strong flavor, it has been used in Mexican gastronomy in various ways. Now that we’ve discussed some easy recipes, How would you feel about trying some enchiladas in guajillo chili sauce stuffed with Jamaica? Maybe fry them until crispy and add salt, chilli pepper, and lime and snack on them? or perhaps some Jamaica flower tacos with mango and habanero chili sauce? (a taco recipe can be found in this blog post!)

Not only is this the perfect addition for the best recipes but it is also delicious in drinks, like a Jamaica Margarita cocktail/mocktail, a fresh clericot, a pulque, or an atole, all made from Jamaica. So, let its versatility fill your table and explore the wanders of this beautiful flower, not before letting us know in the comments below if you liked this recipe and what other recipes you’d like for us to share with you!


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1 comment



I love hibiscus tea I would rather have it without sugar but most people make it with sugar I always order it when I’m in the Mexican food places

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