Hibiscus-Blueberry Cooler

by on July 11, 2012
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Hibiscus-Blueberry Cooler

I was cleaning out the pantry yesterday morning and found a packet marked “Jamaica” that I could barely remember purchasing. (I tend to buy food items that I’m unfamiliar with and then stick them in the closet until I forget why I bought them.) I read the back–”Jamaica is the Spanish name for Hibiscus Pods, also known by the names Indian Sorrel and Rosella”–and put them out on the counter where I’d see them and be reminded to do a Google search for recipes. Later that day, I was watching one of Dr. Michael Greger’s nutrition videos (which if you haven’t discovered, you should set aside a few hours and check out) called Better than Green Tea. Which beverage has the highest antioxidant content? Is it red wine or green tea? It turns out that tea made from hibiscus blows all the other beverages out of the water when it comes to antioxidants.

In the video, Dr. Greger includes an easy recipe for iced hibiscus tea made from herbal teas such as Celestial Seasonings’ Red Zinger. My daughter E happened to be listening as I watched the video, and she ran to the tea cabinet (yes, we have a whole cabinet devoted to tea) to check the ingredients of her favorite, True Blueberry. Sure enough, the primary ingredient is hibiscus, and sure enough, E proceeded to boast in a “told you so” way that her tea was more healthy than my “stinky green tea.” I rolled my eyes a little, and then remembered the pack of shriveled black things that I’d put out on the counter:

Jamaica (Hibiscus)

I got to work looking up recipes for Jamaica on the internet, and I learned from sites like Simply Recipes and 101 Cookbooks that agua de Jamaica is a popular drink in Mexico and that it is pronounced “ha-MIKE-uh.” Wikipedia taught me that it’s made from a variety of hibiscus that’s different from the yellow flower growing in my yard and that the pods are actually sepals, not the flower petals themselves.

By the time I’d finished my internet research and figured out what I wanted to do with my Jamaica, my daughter had actually begun to make Dr. Greger’s recipe using her blueberry tea bags. I started to say “Wait, I want to make it using these dried hibiscus flowers,” but she cut me off with a challenge: “You make it your way, I’ll make it mine. Then we’ll see whose is better.”

So the contest was on. E’s version of Dr. G’s recipe was quick to make but had to steep overnight; my version involved boiling and steeping and straining and took about 30 minutes to make, but I could pour it over ice and drink it right away. But which was better? It depends on whom you ask. E liked them both but claimed hers was better, “Just because it is.” I was amazed how similar they tasted, but I preferred mine because it was thicker, more like a juice than a tea. I also like that I’m getting some soluble fiber from the blueberries, though it does tend to settle and need stirring. Either way, I’m just happy that I found a beverage that my daughter, who has lately been drinking too much juice, lemonade, and stevia-sweetened sodas, likes. As she said, “It tastes like a popsicle and it doesn’t taste healthy!”

Hibiscus-Blueberry Cooler

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you buy something through them, I receive a commission that helps support this site. Thanks for your purchase!

Susan

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Julee July 11, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I also have a Tea Cupboard! I have teas for whatever mood you’re in.
Love the sound of this recipe! I’ll be trying this one very soon.

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2 Janae @ Bring-Joy July 11, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Lol! I do the same thing. I have a fetish for unique or odd food items (my husband does not appreciate this) so I’m always buying random spices, mixes, grains, the like. I still have never gotten around to cooking that forbidden rice I bought months ago.

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3 Jesse July 11, 2012 at 6:07 pm

What a timely recipe; this summer I am growing Thai roselle from seed for the first time, and now I’ll have a fun recipe to try once the calyces are ready! (This is also the ingredient that puts the red in ‘Red Zinger’ tea.)

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4 Charmaine July 11, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Hi Susan,

What a wonderful combo…blueberries and jamaica! I would have never thought of that and I can find all these ingredients abundantly in Mexico!

If you’re in the Jamaica/Hibiscus mood, I’ll have to send you a great recipe for Jamaica Enchiladas with Chipotle Tomato Sauce from a famous chef here. I love ordering this dish when I go to his restaurant (but after seeing his original recipe, I realized there was oil and sugar). Maybe you can E2L tweak it!

Thanks again for all your delicious recipes and your hard work supporting all of us fat-free vegan eaters around the globe!
-Charmaine

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5 Susan Voisin July 11, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Charmaine, I would love to have that recipe! Thanks!

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6 Mark July 11, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Great idea! Thanks for the recipe!

Also, I love that you refer to Dr. Greger and his site. I think his info is fantastic! With regard to Stevia, you may want to check his videos on artificial sweeteners:
‘Is Stevia Good For You’ and especially ‘A Harmless Artificial Sweetener’

I hope that’s helpful.

Cheers!
-Mark

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7 Cathy Tippin July 11, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Hi Susan…back in my hippie days in the 70′s, one of my dear friends would make a delicious after dinner tea: You simmer some dried hibiscus leaves with a couple peppermint teabags, then add honey to taste. I never forgot it, it was so good!

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8 Pam July 11, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Thanks for the link for the hibiscus flowers. Just ordered some, and can’t wait to try this tea. I used to use “Red Zinger” tea all the time when I was into everything herbal. Will have to try it again. Love the blog!!

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9 Karen A. July 11, 2012 at 10:48 pm

What a delightful summer refreshment!

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10 moonwatcher July 12, 2012 at 12:28 am

Hi Susan,

This looks amazing–can’t wait to try some version of it. Co-op here is out of dried hibiscus at the moment, but this will be fun to make. The photo is absolutely gorgeous, too. Makes me thirsty!

xo

moonwatcher

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11 Laina July 12, 2012 at 1:42 am

This looks so delicious and refreshing, especially nice for this hot temp summer weather.

We happen to have a new Mexican grocery store in town so I’ll see if they happen to carry the jamaica.

Thanks, Susan!

Laina :-)

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12 Molly July 12, 2012 at 8:26 am

I love Jamaica! When I lived in Guatemala, the specialty was Rosa de Jamaica with a little bit of Quetzalteca (a specialty liquor). This looks just as wonderful and refreshing!

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13 VeganLinda July 12, 2012 at 9:08 am

We make hibiscus tea by the gallon (just dried hibiscus flowers and water). I have to try this recipe!

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14 Lauren T July 12, 2012 at 10:38 am

I’ve just gotten into tea recently, so I’m so glad you posted about tea and this recipe! Do you find Jamaica/Hibiscus tea to be sour? I was reading some of the reviews to the tea in the link you posted, and some people said it was sour.

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15 Susan Voisin July 12, 2012 at 11:07 am

I think it’s a little tart, kind of like a weak cranberry juice, so that’s why I add stevia.

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16 kathryn July 12, 2012 at 5:30 pm

I love drinks with the name cooler at the end. Our local coffee chain here has a Jasmine lime green tea cooler that is delicious but full of sugar no doubt.

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17 stephanie July 13, 2012 at 10:01 am

Thank you for posting this! Jamaica is a popular drink here in AZ but is most often served as sugary sweet drink. Now I can have a healthful, delicious version of the drink I enjoyed as a child! You’re wonderful, Susan!

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18 Michael Greger July 13, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Thank you so much for mentioning me! I hope you’ll get connected and stay in touch, so you don’t miss a day!
-visit/bookmark the site — http://www.NutritionFacts.org
-subscribe to the daily video and blog feed — http://nutritionfacts.org/feed/rss/?post_type0=video&post_type1=post
-like and follow on facebook — http://facebook.com/NutritionFacts.org
-follow on twitter — http://twitter.com/nutrition_facts

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19 Melissa Lepper July 14, 2012 at 9:43 am

Susan, thank you for mentioning Dr Greger, I checked his site out and it is awesome!

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20 Jeane M. July 15, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Wow this surely must have its way into my summer refreshments list. Love to try out your version.

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21 Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy July 16, 2012 at 9:01 am

What a gorgeous drink! that color is so pretty!

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22 Angel July 16, 2012 at 6:13 pm

I saw that video too. I really enjoy watching his videos! :) I use Celestial Seasoning blueberry or very berry tea with lemon juice and stevia to drink too. I too thought it tastes just like a popcycle, yet good for you! :) I actually bought some blueberries over the weekend, so I may try this… or I may dip them in cashew creme. lol This looks good though! :)

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23 Melissa Sherlock July 16, 2012 at 6:51 pm

I heard on Dr. Oz that hibiscus tea is the absolute healthiest. Now I’m going to combine it with blueberries for iced tea—yum.

My drink of choice during the day, since I don’t like plain water except at meals, is iced tea. I am adding aronia berry concentrate to my iced tea. The antioxidants in aronia berries (chokecherries) is off the charts above all the other dark berries, including acai.

Thank you for another great way to make iced tea that is so healthy!

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24 Laina July 17, 2012 at 10:02 am

Hurray! The new Mexican grocery store has Jamaica. It’s sold loose right next to dried chilis. In fact, the checker asked me if it was dried chili because the code was a chili code.

She asked me what they were so I got to share with her about this wonderful healthy drink. :-)

I really love the flavor and love the fact that it’s a high antioxidant boost. I don’t really like the thickness so much so i diluted it and it still has great flavor.

I added a tiny bit of agave.

I had Dh taste it and he thought it was great, but needed more sweetness.

Thanks, Susan for this fantastic new drink!

Laina :-)

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25 moonwatcher July 17, 2012 at 10:05 am

Hi again Susan,

Well, I was delighted to find that my co-op carries dried hibiscus, but then dismayed to see the “sorry, this item is out of stock” sign on the jar. . .so in the meantime I went looking for E’s favorite True Blueberry. I watched Dr. Gregor’s video, too, which cracked me up–I love his wry delivery of the material as much as the great content. Then I made what I guess is close to E’s version. I cut the recipe in half since it’s just me. I used 2 bags of True Blueberry, 1 tbs of lime juice and about a half tablespoon of date syrup, stirred it all up, and let it sit in the fridge overnight. It’s wonderful! So please tell E I enjoyed her version. :)

I still look forward to trying yours, too, once the hibiscus is back in stock. I may do it with blueberries, or raspberries, if I still have some by then, or a combination of both. What a wonderful–and tasty–and healthy summer drink! These warm summer days, it’s replaced hot tea in the morning for me. :)

xo

moonwatcher

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26 Ann July 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Can you use hisbicus tea bags instead? If so how many?

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27 Susan Voisin July 17, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Dr. Greger’s formula is 8 cups of water, 4 bags of hibiscus tea, juice of one lemon, and sweetener to taste (Dr. Greger suggests blended dates or erythritol). Combine in a pitcher, refrigerate, and let steep overnight. But if you want to make this recipe with the fresh blueberries, I would probably just use 3 bags.

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28 Ann July 17, 2012 at 1:50 pm

I want to make the above recipe so 3 tea bags with 8 cups of water? Should I still steep the teax overnight first?

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29 Susan Voisin July 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm

You could steep overnight or just use 4 cups of boiling water and steep for 25 minutes. Then proceed with the blueberries.

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30 Laina July 19, 2012 at 10:12 pm

I made my morning smoothie and decided to add some of this tea to the mixture. So yummy! What a powerhouse of antioxidants! :-)

Laina :-)

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31 Susan Voisin July 19, 2012 at 11:44 pm

What a great idea!

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32 denielle July 20, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Thanks for sharing this recipe, it was delicious. I’ve already made it twice this week!

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33 Rachel from The Vegan Mishmash July 20, 2012 at 9:06 pm

This looks AMAZING…I’m going to have to make it before the summer is over.

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34 Pam July 22, 2012 at 9:29 pm

This is lovely! I ordered the hibiscus flowers from the Amazon link you posted and the tea is super yummy! It is like you said, slightly thicker than tea, more like a fruit juice. Sweetened with Truvia, the lemon juice makes the flavor pop. Worth a try!

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35 Anna August 2, 2012 at 10:39 am

I make iced hibiscus tea all the time- I buy the hibiscus in bulk at a local international market. I make it pretty strong and then add it to seltzer for a nice refreshing drink. I wasn’t aware of the antioxidant power of hibiscus, but I have heard it can be good for lowering blood pressure.

I was inspired by the blueberries in your recipe, but since I was feeling lazy I made it like this:

Into a French press add:
Large handful of hibiscus .
A few rosehips, some dried juniper berries (because I had them- I would call these optional ingredients)
Frozen blueberries (maybe half a cup?)
Boiling water

Let it steep for a while, occasionally pressing down with the press, then releasing, to mash the blueberries. Chill. If it seems really strong, add water- I added an equal part of water and it was good.

The blueberries add sweetness to the hibiscus which is tangy already. I try not to eat sugar or sweeteners and this tasted sweet enough to me. I omitted the lime juice because I didn’t want to have to sweeten this.

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36 Melissa August 5, 2012 at 9:50 am

I grew up with jamaica being one of my favorite drinks but it never crossed my mine to make it myself. I can’t wait to try this out on the family. Thanks!!

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37 Melissa Lepper August 20, 2012 at 8:02 pm

My Mother sent me a bag if Jamaica last November and I made a batch and wasn’t so thrilled with it. However, I followed your recipe and the blueberries and stevia made all the difference. Actually, I have a blueberry intolerance, so I sub’d raspberries, very good. Thanks again for a great recipe!

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38 sue October 29, 2012 at 8:06 am

I have trouble sleeping if I do go to sleep I will sleep about 45 min and awake again .what would be a good tea that I could drank before going to bed love reading your blogs.

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39 Art Scott July 23, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Incredibly delicious with fresh blueberries! Thanks

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40 Lurdys August 11, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Can’t wait to try this version! Ironically, in Jamaica this is an extremely popular drink as well. We also call the hibiscus plant “sorrel”, it is served at gatherings especially during the Christmas holiday. We take the dried leaves and steep them overnight with ginger. The next morning the mixture is strained and water and sweetener are added – in Jamaica, the sugar commonly used is raw sugar, not white sugar and water is added if the mixture is too strong. It should have a robust flavor so it is better to err on it being too strong vs. too weak. Enjoy!

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41 Lurdys August 11, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Forgot to add that typically one batch is made as I described it and another batch is made with a little bit of white rum added…. :-)

It can also be found in Jamaican/Caribbean markets as well….

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