San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Making sorrel ginger punch

Tired of industrially produced, sugary beverages? Make your own!

On my quest for natural, homemade fruit juices and iced teas, I recently came across sorrel ginger punch. This Caribbean specialty is a traditional Jamaican Christmas drink:  Colorful, delicious and healthy, its ruby red color heralds the onset of festivities.

The inexpensive ingredients are available in Costa Rican super markets, including dried sorrel, ginger, honey and water. Adding orange peel and cinnamon is optional, but makes the drink even more festive.


1 cup dried hibiscus calyces

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh ginger root

1 tablespoon honey or sugar

4 cups hot water

Sorrel is not a well-known member of the buckwheat family, but its the Jamaican word for Hibiscus sabdariffa, a plant native to the Old World tropics, which grows on the island. The parts of the plant used for culinary purposes are the fleshy calyces. More common names include Roselle, Jamaican Rose and Rosa de Jamaica in Spanish.

Jamaican sorrel tea has a tart, cranberry-like flavor. According to Wikipedia, it is rich in vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants. In folk medicine, it has been used as a diuretic, and treatment for heart disease and cancer. Fresh ginger root is known as remedy for the common cold and a stomach settler.

However, the all-natural concoction contains neither preservatives nor artificial colors or flavors. The amount of sugar is up to you and your guests. As English novelist Henry Fielding put it, “Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea.”

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