Jamaican hibiscus tea flowers

Jamaican Sorrel vs Hibiscus Tea: Discover The Difference

Jamaican sorrel is slightly different from other hibiscus teas. All hibiscus plants are edible and usually consumed in the form of vegetables and teas. 

Almost all hibiscus teas are made from the dried (sometimes fresh) leaves, stems and flower petals of the plant. Roselle tea is made from a single species and only the calyces are used.

 Perennial Hibiscus and Tropical Hibiscus

 Perennial Hibiscus and Tropical Hibiscus

There are several hundred species of hibiscus worldwide. These species fall into two main groups.

Perennial Hibiscus. These varieties survive in warmer locations. 

One variety of perennial hibiscus the Rose of Sharon sometimes called Shrub Althea. This is a popular species in my suburban Philadelphia neighborhood.

The plant goes dormant in the winter but roars to life in the spring and blooms throughout the summer.

Jamaican sorrel
Jamaican Sorrel

Tropical Hibiscus. They grow in tropical regions and thrive and bloom all year round.

Tropical hibiscus have dark green shiny leaves that protect the plant from excess heat.

They produce large bright colored flowers.

A number of those species of hibiscus are grown in Jamaica and are used for ornamental purposes.

It is usual for them to grow wild from seeds being scattered by wind, birds or insects.

However, the variety of hibiscus used to make the drink and tea is different. What makes it different.

Roselle Differ From Other Hibiscus

Even though Jamaican hibiscus is a tropical species it is an annual plant.  The species is known as Hibiscus sabdariffa species.

Other  common names for the plant include, rosella, roselle, flowers of Jamaica and red sorrel

However, Jamaicans simply call the plant sorrel.

How to Grow Jamaican Hibiscus

Unlike other species that grow wild in Jamaica, sorrel is cultivated each year.  It is grown for the sole purpose of harvesting the tender calyces. 

These are used to make beverages such as the Christmas time sorrel drink and hibiscus tea.

Sorrel seeds are planted in the late summer to early fall in full sun. The plants grew to between 4 and  6 feet tall.  

 How to Grow Jamaican Sorrel

As the daylight gets shorter the plant blooms beautiful white to light pick flowers that have a rich red center.

The calyces begin to appear. They are the red covers that protect the pods that encase the seed. 

Because in  Jamaica the plant is only cultivated for the calyces so the render ones are reaped and are either dried or frozen. The earlier the harvesting begins the more the plant will produce.

At the end of the reaping season the seeds are gathered for replanting the next year  and the rest of the plant is discarded.

What Sorrel Taste Like

Sorrel does not taste like your regular cup of tea. The tea has a tart taste similar to cranberry.

If too many calyces to make the beverage, it will also be bitter in addition to being tart.

Spices like ginger and cinnamon are often used to lessen the acidity.  Sweetening the tea with sugar or honey will also help to do that.

Calories In An 8oz Cup of Hibiscus Tea

Generic Hibiscus Tea Unsweetened – 8 oz.

Calories: 0 *Carbs: 0g *Fat: 0g *Protein: 0g

Jamaica Flower Hot Unsweetened Tea – 8 oz.

Calories: 0 *Carbs: 0 *Fat: 0 *Protein: 0

Hibiscus tea w/ honey Rosas, 8 fl oz

Calories: 90  *Carbs: 24g  *Fat: 0g *Protein: 0g

Hibiscus tea Generic – 8 fl oz

Calories: 37  *Carbs: 7g *Fat: 1g *Protein: 0g


Do there you have it- the major difference between your generic cups of hibiscus tea and a cup of Jamaican sorrel tea.  

For Jamaican hibiscus (sorrel)  tea, organic calyces are hand picked and frozen or dried to make a vibrant red tea.

Hibiscus tea is full of antioxidants that protect the body from free radicals.

Jamaican hibiscus tea is not as popular as its counterpart Sorrel drink.  Check out the recipe for sorrel here

And you can enjoy sorrel drinks either hot or cold-whichever way you like it.

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