Agua Fresca: Jamaica

If you are going to open an espresso and tea bar in Gainesville in the middle of summer, you had better be ready with some cold drinks to battle the long, hot days. Our iced teas have been a hit (with Oolong Ginger Plum being the crowd favorite), and people are discovering how amazing iced coffees and mochas can be when made with cold-brewed coffee.

We love big flavors at Volta, and I've been thinking about some of the more obscure hot-weather drinks from around the world that I've always wanted to have when back in Gainesville. Top of the list: an agua fresca from Mexico called jamaica (just say Huh-MY-ih-kuh). Jamaica is a sweet-tart cooler made by boiling dried hibiscus flowers with turbinado sugar and a touch of vanilla. The resulting drink is a vermilion-red "agua fresca" served iced. My own introduction to Jamaica was while I was staying in Akumal, Mexico, while filming a cave diving expedition with Global Underwater Explorers. Every morning's breakfast was in an outdoor cafe just off the main square. The coffee tasted like sawdust, the orange juice was bitter Brazilian concentrate, but the jamaica was the stuff that kept us coming back every day. If you have never had an agua fresca jamaica, the flavors will startle you. Think cranberry sweet tart, with enough acidity to cut through the hot day like the best lemonaide.

Volta will be offering jamaica for as long as we have access to high-quality dried hibiscus. Look for it on the specials board, under Iced Drinks.