Latin name: Hibiscus sabdariffa L
Family: Malvaceae (mallow family)
Common names: Roselle, Rosella, agua de Jamaica, flor de Jamaica, sorrel, red sorrel, Jamaica, hibiscus tea, agua de Jamaica, karkade, sour-sour.
Part used: Calyx (flowers)
Key constituents: ascorbic acid (vitamin C) (variable amounts); 15-30% w/w organic acids (citric, malic and tartaric acids); acidic polysaccharides; flavonoid glycosides (anthocyanins) e.g. cyanidin, gossypetin, hibiscin, hibiscitrin, hibiscetin, sabdaretin (major); delphinidin, chrysanthenin, myrtillin (minor); polyphenols, such as protocatechuic acid; and alkaloids such as daphniphylline.
There are several hundred species of hibiscus, a bushy annual plant in the mallow family, but the tea is made from the crimson or deep magenta-coloured calyces (sepals) of the Hibiscus sabdariffa flower. Hibiscus tea is sometimes referred to as ‘sour tea’1 due to the high concentration of acids. It has a distinct red colour and a tart lemony taste. Some people describe it as having a cranberry flavor. It can be consumed hot or cold.