rosa de jamaica tea

Alternate title: The Tea That Made Me Drunk

Hibiscus tea—known in Guatemala as rosa de jamaica—is a popular beverage here. It’s like cranberry juice, tart, red, and fruity, but in a tea format. Here they sell packets of the drink a la koolaid, as well as in bottles of syrupy concentrate. However, I prefer to buy the real deal, the dried flowers themselves.

I first got hooked on the tea when a friend served it for lunch one Sunday. She explained the process, which was super practical and doable, so the next week I told my husband to stop by the “bulk food store” on his way home and pick me up a couple ounces worth.

I made a concentrate by steeping a couple handfuls of leaves in simmering water and adding sugar and fresh lime juice. We all loved it. (The second time around I tried honey instead of sugar, but the honey flavor over-powdered the fruity tea-ness.)

Now. For the getting drunk part.

One afternoon I arrived home from school tired, hot, sweaty, and very dehydrated. It was four in the afternoon and I hadn’t drunk anything all day except my morning coffee, stupidmeIknow. So I drank a glass of water chased by about six glasses of tea. It wasn’t full-strength tea, though. I like to fill my glass about 1/4 full (maybe less) of tea (or juice) and then top it off with water. In total, I probably drank two full glasses of tea.

And then I got dizzy. And light-headed. And woozy.

At first I thought it was the shock of rehydration (is there even such a thing?), but when the feelings didn’t subside and I couldn’t even do my email/office work for lack of an ability to think straight, I started to wonder. And then I remembered what I had read about hibiscus tea.

Health benefits: the tea contains high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants, and it can help to reduce high blood pressure and inflammation.

Side effects/warnings: do not drink the tea if taking acetaminophen, hormone replacement therapy, or pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have low blood pressure. And it said that “Some individuals have experienced an hallucinogenic effect from drinking hibiscus tea or a sensation of feeling intoxicated.” (source)

Now I don’t think I was actually tipsy—what kind of a fruitcake gets drunk on tea!—though I suppose it’s possible. However, I believe it’s more likely that I have low blood pressure (I think this is true), and the tea just knocked it down a notch.

I admit I am tempted to drink several glasses and see if anything happens—you know, in the name of scientific study—but I’m slightly spooked by the brew. For one, I don’t like feeling loopy. And two, low blood pressure, I’ve read, leads to heart and brain damage and I’m rather fond of both my heart and brain.

Which really is too bad because it’s such an intoxicatingly (ha!) delicious drink.

(Any health gurus out there, feel free to weigh in! 
Am I out of my everloving mind to think the tea effected me that much? )

Rosa de Jamaica Tea with Lime

This tea would be fabulous with any number of additions, such as cinnamon, fresh ginger, cloves, nutmeg, mint, and even rum. The tea can be drunk cold or hot—I like it iced.

I have no idea where to get rosa de jamaica in the states. Perhaps all the health food stores carry it? If you can’t find it, there’s always amazon.

Proceed with caution.

1 quart water
½ – 1 cup sugar
juice of 2-3 limes
1 cup rosa de jamaica (hibiscus) leaves

Bring the water to a boil. Add the leaves, put a lid on the kettle, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Pour the liquid through a strainer, and discard the leaves. Pour the tea into a pitcher and add the lime and sugar and stir well.

Makes enough concentrate for ½ gallon to one full gallon of iced tea, depending on how strong you like it.

Do not drink all at once.


  • Anonymous

    a puchis mucha a mi tambien me gusta la rosa que es de jamaica me gusta porque es extranjera es buena como te y como fresco es buena para los rinones a quien lea esto los guatemaltecos los queremos a dios ja ja ja

  • Anonymous

    Here in Tucson, AZ we can get the dried flowers in bulk $4.79/lb at the local grocery store called Food City, its a secondary brand of Basha's. I have also seen it in the Hispanic aisle in the little spice packets for 79 cents to a $1.79… If you have an Oriental foods market they may have it there as well

  • Anonymous

    I had the same experience. Feeling very strange after a few glasses. I always wait to long to drink (untill i feel thirsty). So now i know what to do 🙂 Thanks for your nice blog!

  • Sara-hare

    I don't think it was the tea… you probably just threw your internal workings/electrolytes out of whack by getting dehydrated and then drinking a large amount of liquid at once. I've done the same thing with water. 🙂 (Not a medical professional, but experience should mean a little.) Now I want some to track down hibiscus for tea… it looks refreshing. And that color!

  • Anonymous

    Interesting! I never knew that a kind of tea could have those affects. If I am every offered some in the future, I will appreciate the warning from here!

  • beckster

    Hibiscus tea is available in the US and has been for a long time, but it has not always been identified as such. Red Zinger by Celestial Seasonings is the one I know of that has been around the longest. I have been drinking it since the 70's. I'm sure your tea made from the larger, fresher flower parts is probably much better. I'm a nurse, so I would say that your blood pressure may have been low. Don't worry about getting organ damage. You would pass out and be unable to remain upright before that happened! Generally speaking, you are significantly down on volume before you get thirsty, so you probably just replaced so fast, it made you feel a little weird. Keep enjoying your tea, but next time you feel dehydrated, just drink water in a moderate manner until you no longer feel thirsty, then switch to tea. Unless you have been doing vigorous activity or have been losing a lot of fluids, there is usually no need to replace electrolytes. Maybe you are a little sensitive to hibiscus. By the way, I love your blog, it's wonderful that you share your unique experiences.

  • Anonymous

    Not a doctor, just a low blood pressure person who has inconveniently ended up with a stupid chronic illness of the autonomic nervous system that totally mangles my blood pressure in addition to the hereditary low blood pressure (you know that the veins in your legs are supposed to contract when you stand up so that blood can continue getting to your brain? mine forget. Plus more fun symptoms, hey!). So, I tend to get increasingly drunk-ish whenever upright.

    So… if the hibiscus tea -> feeling drunk thing happens again, try lying down flat or semi-flat (optionally: knees up). If brain ability/concentration returns to you pretty fast, odds are good that yes, it's just low blood pressure (possibly lowered additionally by hibiscus tea, or by dehydration [possibly plus your digestive system stealing your blood supply for a little while]). Low blood pressure by itself is theoretically not supposed to cause brain damage unless you pass out *while* propped up, such that the brain has inadequate blood flow for a period of time (or unless you give yourself a concussion by fainting into something inadvisable, like the corner of a sink), if that's reassuring. When you're feeling better lying down, gradually move to sitting, then resume activity as desired.

    *However*, you might have also messed up your electrolyte balance by rehydrating way too fast without the necessary extra stuff (sugar, salt, and potassium are the main things, I think?), which can also make you feel pretty horrible (and is also rather hazardous at the time!), but doesn't tend to get "fixed" by lying down so much. (I mean, obviously, if you're lying down, then you're not walking into doorframes and stuff in any event, but more of the feeling-lousy part is still there while lying down if your electrolytes are messed up than if it's just not-enough-blood-to-the-brain from low blood pressure.) If, in the future, you get dry and need to rehydrate again, at least toss some salt in the mix somehow (some sea salt crunched straight? potato chips have both salt and potassium? Bananas and avocados are both good for potassium, plus a handful of generously salted mixed nuts or pretzels or something? Or whatever.). Pedialyte is horrible stuff, but good for rehydration. There are also "home rehydration" drink recipes that usually contain "low-sodium salt" (which has potassium in it) and sugar and stuff in certain proportions. I'm not sure if hibiscus could cover the flavor. 🙂

    Or, it could totally be something else. Those are just the two things I've run into. 🙂

    Again, not medically trained, just… more experienced than I would like to be at the art of passing out without hitting my head on things.

    Hope you enjoy your hibiscus tea!

  • the domestic fringe

    All from a cup of tea…who would have thunk it!

    When I was a kid, I had really bad asthma (still do) and I had a friend who was from Egypt. One day when I was at her house and having asthma, her mom took this root out from under her sink, brewed me up a cup of the most disgusting tea I have ever tasted, and made me drink. It brought phlegm up all the way from my toes. Till date, I think it was probably the strongest medicine I've taken.

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