Hibiscus tea, Hibiscus sabdariffa, also known as Agua de Jamaica or Roselle, is a versatile herbal tea made from the crimson colored calyces of the flower. When dried and infused, it glows with a deep red hue and has a tangy flavor similar to sour plums or juicy cranberries. Hot or iced hibiscus tea is consumed all over the world, with many cultures developing their own recipes over time, and has several supposed health benefits.
What is hibiscus?
Hibiscus is a type of flowering plant native to tropical and warm temperate regions. Hibiscus tea is made from large fresh flowers that are shaped like trumpets with a bright red or pink color, which is where the tea gets its magenta color from. Roselle is the species of hibiscus typically made into tea, known as sorrel in the Caribbean and flor de Jamaica in Central America, which is used to create tea infusions and juices. After the flowers are harvested, their hearty seeds need to be manually removed before dried and packaged, and then brewed into an herbal tea.
Hibiscus cultivated in Taiwan
Roselle or Hibiscus sabdariffa was brought into Taiwan in 1910 by the Japanese during their occupation of Taiwan. The main cultivation region is spread across southeastern Taiwan in Luye, Beinan, and Taimali Townships of Taitung County. There is a large population of Taiwanese indigenous tribes in Taitung county and the production of hibiscus flower has become an important economic crop for the indigenous community.
Health benefits of hibiscus tea
There are many potential benefits of hibiscus tea that could help with a number of health issues and support your overall well being. If you have pre-existing health conditions or if you're pregnant, always talk to your doctor before consuming hibiscus tea in large quantities.
- High in antioxidants
Hibiscus tea is naturally caffeine-free and packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that help fight free radicals, which cause oxidative damage to cells and exacerbate the body’s aging process. Consuming antioxidants can prevent diseases and illnesses, and can reduce inflammation in the body and on the skin (including wrinkling). Studies using hibiscus extract have shown an increase in antioxidant enzymes and properties in rats, though more research is required in humans.
- Supports the immune system
- Decreases high blood sugar
- Helps with high blood pressure
- May lower levels of cholesterol
It’s worth noting that some early research illustrates that drinking hibiscus tea can lower cholesterol levels and other blood fats in people who have metabolic disorders, including diabetes. Other studies show that if cholesterol levels are already high, hibiscus tea doesn’t necessarily help lower cholesterol to a normal level.
- May aid in weight loss
Some evidence shows that hibiscus tea is associated with weight loss. In one study, participants who took hibiscus extract after 12 weeks demonstrated a reduction in body weight, fat and overall BMI. Plus, drinking a refreshing and flavorful herbal tea after meals can help kick cravings by changing the taste in your mouth. Skip the sugar or add only a small amount for taste.
Hibiscus tea side effects
Hibiscus tea have been used in folk medicine for centuries, but drinking tea from these plant can cause side effects in some people. When taken in normal amounts, hibiscus tea is most likely safe for the majority of people. While side effects aren’t common, some people might experience brief stomach upset, gas, pain, constipation, nausea, headache, shakiness or issues with urination. Others who consume large quantities may experience a laxative effect from the citric acids. However, these side effects are likely a result of taking high doses of hibiscus at the medicinal level.
How to drink hibiscus tea
Hibiscus tea is a versatile drink that can be consumed plain or sweet and hot or cold. Iced tea variations are very popular around the world. When brewed, hibiscus tea can be slightly sour, so some people like to add sweetener and natural flavoring to change the taste of the beverage.
In some cultures, hibiscus is blended with fruit, citrus juices, ginger, mint, dried cinnamon or cloves. It can also be mixed into a cocktail with rum or vodka to complement its uniquely tart profile. In Mexico and Central America, you can find hibiscus used in aguas frescas or fresh fruit juices. On its own and combined with juice, the drink can sometimes be found under the name Jamaica.
Brewing hibiscus tea
Brew hibiscus tea the right way, and you’ll end up with the perfect cup. Feel free to experiment with steeping times and water temperatures to suit your own palate.
Pour boiling water over the hibiscus flowers. We suggest using porcelain or glass teaware for steeping hibiscus. Steep for 1-2 minutes or until the tea develops a deep red color. Strain into your favorite drinking cup. Hibiscus tea is tart and adding a sweetener, such as honey or agave can ease the sourness. Re-steep the same hibiscus flowers for 2 more times.
For iced hibiscus tea, brew the hibiscus tea slightly stronger (2-3 grams / 8 oz water) and pour it over a glass of ice.
What to do with the hibiscus flower after brewing?
Our hibiscus flowers are full, fleshy and edible! After brewing, take out a flower and drizzle some honey or agave before eating it as a snack.