As soon as summer hits, it’s a never-ending war of attrition between that terrible, soul-sucking heat and my feeble attempts to stay cool. Besides embracing my air conditioner, eating copious amounts of ice cream, and trying not to move much, the summer months mark that time of year when I drink copious amounts of ice cold mugicha, or roasted barley tea, all in an attempt to stave off the heat.
Caffeine free, mugicha is a robust-tasting, flavourful tea that can be made either hot or cold. Its roasted flavour is reminiscent of the roasted taste found in coffee. In anime, it’s often hard to identify drinks, since so many look the same or are not identified by name. So, imagine my surprise when I watched season 1 of Oreimo and saw Kyousuke drink glass after glass of mugicha in nearly every episode!
About the recipe:
Mugicha (mugi meaning barley, and cha meaning tea) is a tea made from steeping roasted pearl barley in water, and which is consumed in a large variety of Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, China, and Malaysia. Barley water is even a popular soft drink in Britain!It can be made hot for the winter, or cold for the summer, and is a nice caffeine-free alternative to coffee.
Mugicha can be bought pre-made from an Asian grocery store, but why lug heavy cartons and jugs of the stuff home when you can very easily make it at home? If you use a pre-made teabag, you basically, you just add water. I don’t even bother to fish out the teabag after it’s done steeping!
And, if you can’t find mugicha teabags, not to worry…. Just roast your own barley and use that instead! It takes only a few minutes to roast the barley, and then after a quick simmer, you’ve got some great tea! Roasting your own barley results in a paler coloured tea that will be naturally sweeter than store bought teabags.
While I like to drink mugicha plain, it can also be sweetened with sugar or syrup. And, if you really want to keep your tea cold, I suggest adding ice cubes of frozen mugicha so that your drink does not become diluted with just plain water! This works really well for iced coffee too (just make your ice cubes out of coffee instead!)
One word of warning: since barley contains gluten, the resulting tea may not be suitable for those with celiac disease or with a sensitivity to gluten. I’m not sure how much gluten actually transfers from the barley into the water, so please be aware!
About the ingredients:
Mugicha teabags are available at many Asian grocery stores, and can often be bought in large packs for an affordable price (I think I recently paid about 5 or 6$ for 52 teabags at my local Japanese store!). If you can’t get them in your area, you can also purchase them online as well, though I’m not sure on the prices.
Since mugicha is simply whole roasted barley, there’s a possibility that it could go rancid. Once you open your package of tea, keep it in an airtight bag or, if you’re not going to use it all, the tea can always be preserved by placing it in the freezer.
Pearl barley (or pearled barley) can easily be found in most general grocery stores, either in packages or in bulk.
Mugicha (roasted barley tea)
Makes 2 litres of tea
- 2 litres water
- 1 teabag of mugicha
- 1/3 cup pearl barley
Roasting your own barley:
1. Place pearl barley into a dry pan set on medium-low heat. Slowly cook the barley until deep brown and roasted, about 10 minutes, stirring every so often to ensure even cooking.
2. Remove from heat and set aside until completely cool before using.
Making the tea:
Teabag version (cold): Place mugicha teabag into a 2 litre jug. Cover with water and let tea steep overnight.
Teabag version (hot): Place mugicha teabag into a teapot. Cover with hot water and let tea steep 5 minutes, or until tea reaches desired strength.
Simmered version: Place 2 litres of water in a pot with 1/3 roasted pearl barley. Simmer for at least 20 minutes. For hot tea, serve immediately, straining out the loose barley. For cold tea, let tea cool, strain out the loose barley, and refrigerate until cold.
Serve hot or cold with ice, if desired. Optionally stir in sugar or syrup to sweeten.