The beautiful red shades of hibiscus tea and delicious fruity flavor are hard not to admire. Last week on the Zest Tea blog, we explored a wide range of herbal teas and discovered that some of them can contain quite a large amount of caffeine (albeit not as much as Zest Tea)!
So, does hibiscus tea contain caffeine? What other benefits of hibiscus tea are there?
In this guide to hibiscus tea, we're breaking down the origins, nutrition, health benefits and caffeine levels of this popular herbal tea type.
Hibiscus tea is made from flowers rather than leaves, roots, or seeds like many other herbal teas. To make this tea, we pick and dry parts of the flowers before steeping them in hot water to produce a bright red, fruity-flavored infusion.
The calyces of the hibiscus flower (the tougher part that protects the delicate petals) are used to create the vibrantly colored tea. So, unlike some flower infusions like chamomile, you can't just pick hibiscus flowers and douse them in water to make an easy brew.
The Hibiscus sabdariffa plant, or roselle as it's also known, is the most common variety of hibiscus that's used to create the tea. Hibiscus tea is also known as sour tea or carcade.
The roselle flower is native to Africa but is now grown around the world. Although market information about the production of hibiscus isn't tracked (as it's a specialty botanical product), we know that China and Thailand produce a lot of hibiscus to export. Most other countries that grow hibiscus use the flower domestically.1
Closer to home, hibiscus is grown and consumed as a popular infusion in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. You might have seen it labeled as 'sorrel' or 'agua de Jamaica' and not realized it was, in fact, hibiscus.
Dried hibiscus is most often used in tea blends (like our Blue Lady high caffeine tea) in the US and UK, but in Central America, Mexico, and across the Caribbean, it is used to make a refreshing and inexpensive drink.
Agua de Jamaica is made by infusing the hibiscus flower calyces in hot water, adding a variety of spices and/or ginger, then chilling and sweetening. It's usually served cold.
The nutrition for raw roselle is interesting! 100g of raw hibiscus flower provides 49 calories, 12mg of vitamin C (14% of your recommended daily intake), 215mg of calcium, 51mg of magnesium, and 1.48mg of iron (11% of your recommended daily intake).2
But take this with a pinch of salt.
Vitamin C is very susceptible to heat. It oxygenates quickly, especially when exposed to high temperatures (like the boiling water used to make your tea), so the actual amount of vitamin C and minerals that end up in your cup is a lot less. One study found that after processing, cooking, steaming, or boiling vegetables, only 31% to 73% of the vitamin was retained.3
An 8oz cup of hibiscus tea contains much less nutrition compared to the raw hibiscus flowers. The tea contains 0 calories, 0mg of vitamin C, 19mg of calcium, 7mg of magnesium, and 0.19mg of iron.4
Generally, the longer you infuse your tea, the stronger the tea is, and the more nutrients end up in your cup (with the exception of heat-sensitive vitamin C).
Hibiscus tea is free of caffeine. Regardless of which hibiscus tea you choose, whether it's cool agua de Jamaica or a hot cup of hibiscus flower tea, there is no caffeine to infuse into your cup.
Did you know that certain plants evolved to produce caffeine as a way to disable or kill insects that may damage them?5 The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, and coffee plant, Coffea arabica, are two such plants.
The hibiscus plant doesn't produce caffeine at all, so your mug of hibiscus tea will always be caffeine-free.
As mentioned earlier in our guide, not all herbal teas (AKA teas that are not made from the Camellia sinensis tea plant) are caffeine-free.
Some popular caffeine-free teas, like hibiscus, include:
Herbal infusions that do contain caffeine include:
To learn more about loose leaf herbs that may contain caffeine, read our Guide to Herbal Teas.
Using hibiscus to add fruity flavors to caffeinated tea blends is quite common - these tea blends will definitely contain caffeine. Adding the hibiscus to the loose leaf tea doesn't detract any caffeine from it.
Here are the average caffeine levels for the most popular traditional tea types:
Even though all of these tea types can be made from the same tea plant, they all contain varying levels of caffeine. To learn why, check out our Which Tea Has The Most Caffeine guide.
Most teas are naturally quite low in caffeine, especially when you compare them to strong coffee beverages and energy drinks. But there is one exception. Zest Tea blends provide up to 150mg of caffeine per serving to get you up and running in the morning.
We use hibiscus in our non-GMO certified Blue Lady tea blend. It's a great way to enjoy hibiscus with an extra caffeine boost! Our customers love to drink it hot or cold.
Discover Blue Lady energy tea.
The easiest way to make hibiscus tea is by following this method. Using hibiscus flowers that are whole or sifted and cut (S/C) is the best way to make it. Hibiscus extract can also be used, but remember that they are highly concentrated and you may not get the same fresh hibiscus flavor.
You will need:
To make the tea:
A mug of hibiscus tea twice a day is a good way to relax. You're unlikely to experience any side effects (scroll down to our FAQs to learn about those), and you may even experience some cool health benefits of hibiscus too.
Hibiscus tea benefits are numerous and could benefit your body in some surprising ways. There's evidence that the health benefits of hibiscus can assist your immune system with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, as well as help you maintain blood sugar levels and good heart health.
Most studies, like the ones listed below, use concentrated hibiscus extract rather than tea to assess the potency of these health benefits.
Lowering blood pressure has numerous advantages for your health, particularly if you are prone to high blood pressure.
Thankfully, hibiscus may be an effective remedy. Hibiscus lowers blood pressure levels when consumed twice daily, as shown by patients with stage 1 hypertension.6 Changing your lifestyle and diet are also key if you need lower blood pressure - hibiscus may help, but it's no cure.
Hibiscus tea has been used as a traditional medicine for numerous conditions, including cancer and cardiovascular disorders, throughout history. But now we understand why and how the benefits of hibiscus tea can cover so many ailments. It's down to antioxidants that can inhibit free radicals.
Hibiscus tea provides the antioxidants that can prevent damage caused by free radicals, which is great for your overall health. One review showed that hibiscus can sometimes be even more effective than pharmaceuticals at improving biomarkers of metabolic syndromes (particularly blood glucose and insulin sensitivity).7
Cholesterol fat accumulation in your arteries is a serious problem that leads to heart disease. But hibiscus could help you keep your heart health on the right path.
The 'bad' cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) that's linked to heart disease is significantly reduced by regularly consuming sour tea (hibiscus). Furthermore, this study found that the 'good' cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) was unaffected by the regular hibiscus consumption.8
Hibiscus tea could be used to treat liver problems, including non-alcoholic fatty liver.
In a study into the far-reaching benefits of hibiscus tea for metabolic regulation and liver protection, researchers found strong evidence that hibiscus extract can be used to improve liver steatosis, prevent obesity (with lifestyle changes), and treat non-alcoholic fatty liver.9
Compared to hibiscus tea, hibiscus plant extract is much more concentrated and potent, so you're unlikely to experience these health benefits from a daily hibiscus cuppa.
Hibiscus tea may help reduce oxidative stress after you exercise. Oxidative stress is the imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in your body. This imbalance can cause cell and tissue damage. It's a natural process that also contributes to our aging.
But the antioxidant properties of hibiscus tea can combat this. One study found that soccer players had a significant increase in total antioxidant capacity after taking hibiscus tea extract before exercise.10
Weight loss is never easy or fast, but there are some properties of hibiscus that can help you reduce your body weight. The study into liver damage above shows one way that hibiscus can reduce abdominal fat, and don't forget the strong link between hibiscus and reducing 'bad' cholesterol.
But there's more. One study found that polyphenols extracted from hibiscus and lemon verbena modulate appetite biomarkers, which means that they could help dieters avoid the undesirable weight gain that's often experienced after finishing a calorie restricted diet.11
One of the benefits hibiscus tea is most promising for, is reducing fasting plasma glucose.12
When we fast (go without food), the hormone glucagon is stimulated to increase our blood plasma glucose levels. Normally, our bodies produce insulin to reduce and balance blood plasma glucose to a normal level. However, patients with type 2 diabetes may not produce enough insulin.
So, hibiscus tea could be a great way to help people with diabetes control their blood sugar.
Our Zest Tea blends contain a range of natural, non-GMO ingredients to create flavors that burst just as much as our caffeine levels!
Blue Lady is one of our customers' favorite blends and it contains just enough hibiscus to add a tart, fruity edge to the South Indian Flowery Orange Pekoe Black Tea. We blend the hibiscus and black tea with orange, lemon and passionfruit flavors, plus a peppering of cornflower petals for a visual pop.
After exploring hibiscus tea benefits, you'll likely have some more questions about this interesting herbal infusion. Here are the top 10 most frequently asked questions about hibiscus.
Yes, the dried hibiscus used to make hibiscus tea doesn't provide any caffeine. Technically, as hibiscus tea is made from flowers rather than a traditional caffeinated tea, it is known as a herbal tea or tisane.
Hibiscus tea is known for lowering blood pressure, which can make you feel sleepy, light-headed and even dizzy. If you have naturally low blood pressure and consume a lot of hibiscus tea, you may experience these temporary side effects. But don't worry - they pass quickly.
Hibiscus tea is most effective at reducing high blood pressure. Hibiscus tea may also assist with losing weight, maintaining a healthy liver function, and keeping your immune system in good shape. Hibiscus tea is also good for rehydrating and enjoying a flavorful caffeine-free drink.
No, hibiscus flowers from the Hibiscus Sabdariffa plant do not contain any caffeine. Infusing dried hibiscus flowers in water produces a caffeine-free, herbal tea. Hibiscus tea will only contain caffeine if it is blended with a traditional tea type (e.g. black tea) or a caffeinated herb (e.g. yerba mate).
Hibiscus flowers produce a surprisingly fruity tea! The flavor of hibiscus tea is tart, sweet, juicy and berry-like. It can also have sour notes. Many people find that hibiscus tea tastes like strong cranberry juice.
Yes, it is safe for pregnant women to drink a cup of hibiscus tea during pregnancy. However, it is possibly unsafe to drink in large quantities or to take medicinally as hibiscus extract.13
A few small-scale studies have observed links between mothers consuming a lot of hibiscus tea and delayed puberty in their offspring, but there’s no conclusive evidence.14
A one-off cup of hibiscus tea is unlikely to cause any problems, but don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor for medical advice. If you want to avoid hibiscus tea just in case, there are plenty of other herbal teas that are definitely safe to consume during pregnancy.
Drinking too much hibiscus tea in a short period of time can cause stomach upset - you might experience nausea, excess gas, and constipation, for example.15 These symptoms will pass quickly, and there's unlikely to be any permanent damage.
Some people can also experience dizziness, sleepiness and light-headed sensations after consuming hibiscus tea. This is due to lower blood pressure. This symptom will pass too, with no long-lasting damage.
Hibiscus tea, also known as sour tea, is safe to consume daily. Consuming hibiscus tea in vast quantities may have some undesirable side effects, e.g. stomach upset, but it's not going to cause any serious damage to you. Drinking 1 to 3 cups a day is perfectly fine.16
Yes, hibiscus can be good for your skin. It has anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. Hibiscus tea may also prevent loss of skin elasticity.17 The best way to use hibiscus tea for your skin is to apply skincare products containing hibiscus extract rather than drinking hibiscus tea regularly.
Many studies have confirmed that hibiscus tea is high in antioxidants, which are known to combat free radicals. It's these free radicals that damage your cells over time, causing the aging process. Drinking hibiscus tea regularly can combat this, to some degree... although no one can avoid aging completely!