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.
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.