Since most think of the island nation when they hear Jamaica, it can be sort of confusing to learn that there is also a delicious and refreshing beverage by the same name. Agua fresca de Jamaica is a delicious beverage that is unique to Mexican culture and even has numerous health benefits. Around the world, people make their own agua fresca de Jamaica in their homes and often use lime juice and cinnamon to add some extra flavors.
What Is the Mexican Drink Jamaica Made Of?
The Mexican beverage known as Jamaica traditionally uses dried hibiscus flowers prepared in fresh water to make a delicious and fresh-tasting tea. Its bright red color adds an exciting element to any meal and the taste is something that cannot be matched by other beverages.
Using freshly dried hibiscus petals ensures that the tea does not become bitter while the flowers are steeped in water. Flowers that are softer are often more flavorful and sweet than if they are left out to become hard and bitter. No one wants a bitter tea, so we use the best ingredients to create the sweet, tangy, and fresh taste of the traditional agua fresca de Jamaica.
Agua fresca de Jamaica is also made using natural sugars to ensure that the drink achieves its traditional sweet and tangy flavor while still being refreshing. The mixture of dried hibiscus, flowers and the natural sugar in ice-cold water makes for a drink that pairs perfectly with any of our authentic Mexican foods and creates the perfect array of unique flavors that are rooted in traditional Mexican cuisine.
Why Is the Mexican Drink Called Jamaica?
The traditional Mexican hibiscus tea is called Jamaica simply because the main ingredient, the hibiscus plant, was originally brought over to Mexico from Jamaica, the island nation off the coast of Mexico. Jamaica is also the Spanish word for the hibiscus plant, which produces the flavorful flowers that are steeped in fresh water to make agua fresca de Jamaica. The full name of the beverage, agua fresca de Jamaica, literally translates to “fresh water of Jamaica.” It is well named, as it is a drink that captures the essence and unique tastes of the flower into a tasty beverage that pairs perfectly with many Mexican dishes.
The country that originally grew native Jamaica flowers, or hibiscus flowers, has been disputed by botanists to have been either Africa or India. They were brought over to Mexico sometime during the American colonial period. Traditionally, many Mexican cultures would use agua fresca de Jamaica as a cure for the symptoms of high blood pressure and have also been used to make paletas, or Mexican popsicles.
Over time, the hibiscus plant has become more and more suitable for making foods and drinks. A long time ago, the hibiscus plant was mostly bitter and had much smaller, more brittle flowers than it does today. With these evolutions, the hibiscus flower has become a staple in foods around the world.
History of Agua Fresca de Jamaica
The stories of the first aguas frescas say that the Aztecs were the first to use the fruits that they gathered in Tenochtitlán and mix it with water chilled using ice from Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl — dormant volcanoes that were close to the Aztec city. Since then, the drink has developed into a staple of Mexican mealtimes, with agua fresca de Jamaica serving as a common drink for the mid-day meal, when the sun is high and the day is at its hottest. Now, it’s a sweet and refreshing beverage for any time of the day.
Aguas frescas are traditional Mexican beverages that come in many different flavors, using fresh ingredients like fruits, flowers, herbs, and spices. At Backyard Taco, we regularly offer three flavors of aguas frescas: horchata, limonada, and Jamaica.
Hibiscus teas in various forms have been consumed all over the world in different forms, and as such, have many different names around the world which may cause some confusion for those familiar with agua fresca de Jamaica from any number of other cultures besides Mexican. In West India, the people refer to the hibiscus flower as sorrel, while most Africans call the flower roselle. Europeans call it Italian tea, and it has become a part of Egyptian weddings to toast to the bride and groom.
Residents of the island of Jamaica, as well as their nearby neighbors the Trinidadians, usually serve agua fresca de Jamaica sweeter than it is in Mexico. Despite the different names and small changes to the recipes across cultures, all of these teas, including agua fresca de Jamaica, come from an edible type of hibiscus flower called Hibiscus sabdariffa.
Is the Mexican Drink Jamaica Good for You?
Jamaica has been shown to provide numerous health benefits to the body including additional vitamin C and even lowering blood pressure. It is also what is called a diuretic, or a substance that helps cleanse the human body of excess salt. Too much salt in the body leads to many different issues including increasing one’s risk of heart failure, heart disease, stomach cancer, as well as multiple different diseases of the kidney.
Agua fresca de Jamaica may help with many of the problems that can come with high blood pressure as well. High blood pressure is fairly common these days for many people, but is one of the top contributors to heart disease. Fatal issues like heart failure, aneurysms, heart attacks, and even memory loss and dementia are all problems that become much more common in people with high blood pressure.
The consumption of hibiscus flowers, the main ingredient in the Jamaica drink, has also been found to be an effective antioxidant. The daily consumption of foods that are high in antioxidants has been found to prevent multiple different cell issues, and even lower a person’s risk of cancer. Antioxidants also reduce the damage done by free radicals, which are molecules that are often produced from harmful substances like tobacco or even radiation. They can also help promote brain, heart, lung, and eye health.
The increased content of vitamin C in this delicious hibiscus tea also has numerous benefits for your body. A lack of sufficient vitamin C in the blood can lead to problems with growth and healing, as well as cause additional issues within the immune system, which is vital for our health and even our survival.
A diet that is high in daily vitamin C content promotes a healthy immune system and brain. With a healthy immune system, you will find that you become sick much less often, especially from small things like a cold or the flu, and you may also have an increased chance of overcoming the symptoms of serious and/or chronic conditions. Vitamin C can also be crucial for preventing gout as well as issues with iron deficiency.
What Does Jamaica Drink Taste Like?
Aguas frescas are extremely popular in Mexico, and agua fresca de Jamaica has become a traditional summer beverage in Mexican culture as a typical mid-day drink with meals over the course of centuries.
Jamaica is among one of the three agua fresca signature drinks we offer, all of which are authentic Mexican beverages that pair beautifully with any of our fresh and delicious foods, to make for a traditional Mexican dining experience that is unique to the country’s local flavor.
Dr. Tyler loves tacos! He is one of the owners of Backyard Taco, and can sometimes be found moonlighting there at night or on the weekends.
Dr. Tyler Robison is an alum of Mesa’s Mountain View High School. He graduted from Brigham Young University before being accepted to the “Top Ten-nationally ranked” University of Louisville in Kentucky, where he earned his Doctorate in Dental Medicine and a Master’s Degree in Oral Biology. He graduated with honors in the top ten percent of his class. Dr. Robison continued at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco, where he received a second master’s degree in dental science and his orthodontic certification.
Dr. Tyler enjoys serving in his community. He is a provider for the Smile Back Foundation, which offers scholarships for free dental treatment to underprivileged East Valley students. He is also a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve and served during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2008.
Dr. Tyler Robison’s favorite pastimes include spending time with his family on the lake, at the beach, or on the slopes. He is an avid and crazy snowboarder! He has three incredible sons and one sweet daughter: Caden, Jace, Crew, and Bliss.