No, not the vacation spot – the refreshing drink sold at local stands in Rocky Point, Mexico. Jamaica (pronounced “hah-mike-ah”) is actually called “jugo de Jamaica” or “agua de Jamaica” when you’re asking for the sweetened drink at a stand. To purchase it in the raw form you’ll be looking for “flor de Jamaica” which is dried hibiscus blossoms. What? Yep, that big beautiful flower is not only a refreshing drink, but it also has a number of holistic health benefits.
I came upon flor de Jamaica when I had stomach problems, so I never really enjoyed the sweetened beverage that everyone loves. In fact, my Mother and I refer to it as “bug juice” because we brew it strong and drink it fast! To make agua de Jamaica so tasty, local stands add a lot of sugar to the vibrant red liquid – otherwise it is a bit bitter and tart. I have been drinking the straight and much stronger version of the juice for 17 years now and can tell you it is great for bloating, gas and um, constipation (that’s embarrassing). I am no medical doctor, but have been advised by one – the one who introduced flor de Jamaica to me and it is a great all around holistic drink, plus it sure gets them intestines cleaned out! I used to only drink it when I had one or more of the above mentioned problems, but have found that if I drink a large glass of it daily, my insides stay in pretty good shape. (In fact, I just brewed up a pot this morning at my home in Laguna Shores Beachfront Resort Community in Puerto Peñasco.) It can be enjoyed hot, cold, sweetened or unsweetened.
I’ve seen a number of recipes for brewing up this special potion, but I am all about simple, fast and natural. By all means, if you want to explore other options, the web contains a wealth of recipes. There are a number of ways you can turn the dried flower into a drinkable juice. Lately, I’ve been using my French Press. Before that I used my coffee pot and my old stand-by is just a little pot. I don’t use a measuring cup, but you can if you want. If I brew it too strong I just cut it with water or add ice cubes to the pitcher while it’s still hot. If you’re using your coffee pot I would suggest filling the basket half to two-thirds full – you can do this with a paper or gold filter though I find the gold washable filters work better. I fill the bottom of my French Press up about ¼” and then pour boiling water over the flowers and let steep – pretend you’re making a delicious dark roast Sumatra. For a small pot, grab a handful, and for a medium pot, fill your hand. Fill the pot with water (leaving some boiling room) and place the flowers into the water and bring to a boil. Remove immediately or let set for a bit: I have walked off and left mine for hours (whew-wee…strong stuff). This is just my rule of thumb – you will adjust yours over time to your liking. All it takes is a vessel, hot water and the flowers…simple. The less flowers and less time you let it steep, the lighter the red juice will be. I have seen some recipes that say let it sit for one-half hour. Acck, I would totally disagree. It doesn’t take long for it to become strong.
I used to drink Jamaica hot, but these past couple of years I have started drinking it cold (no sweetener). I usually replace one of my 24 oz glasses of water with agua de Jamaica and feel I have done a good deed for my body for the day – plus it’s high in Vitamin C and caffeine free. Many claim that Jamaica tea has other wonderful properties such as serving as a diuretic, alleviating menstrual cramps, lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol, and purifying arteries and kidneys. I can attest to a digestive clean-up or detox and perhaps a gentle laxative, but I would ask your homeopathic doctor about the rest, since I am not one. I just know what it has done for me and for friends and family and some of it is just miraculous. Truly! Try it for a week or so and I’m sure you will be adding it to your daily drinking list. If you want to sweeten it go for Stevia or a Stevia extract, so you’re not adding sugar. There are medical journals out there with some information and testing results and I read that in Cuba they use it to calm nerves. (I get rather anxious when I drink it.perhaps I should try some Stevia and make the process more enjoyable!)
Look for Flor de Jamaica at your local grocery store or go to a local Mercado – they are sure to have it. While you are vacationing here in Rocky Point, Mexico pick up a giant bag of fresh flowers for $99 pesos at Sam’s Club, or look for it in just about any o the local corner markets. The bag will last you until you make your next trip to our beautiful Sea of Cortez.