I have been bombarded with writing deadlines recently and thus have been neglecting my poor blog. And something else has suffered. The amount of work, the dry Beijing air, and wind from sandstorms have given me a bit of a sore throat. (Okay, that and some recreational drinking and recreational spicy food intake over the weekend.) To help sooth my throat I decided to make some nice hot barley tea.
Barley tea, is a popular drink in Japan (where it is called mugicha) and Korea (boricha), and somewhat less popular in China (dàmàichá). In the West the most common non-English name is mugicha. Drinking barley tea supposedly cleanses your system and helps with congestion and bronchitis, along with some other claims, but I think most people drink it because it's refreshing and keeps you hydrated.
Barley tea is made by simply simmering roasted barley. Hot barley tea tastes a bit like toasted cereal, with less bitterness than tea from leaves, so it can be a good morning beverage, or night beverage since it contains no caffeine. You can add honey or sugar, though many purists insist on drinking it unsweetened. In addition to dark brown loose barley, some companies make bags of lighter barley meant for steeping at room temp for a cold drink. In Japan it is as popular as lemonade is in the US as a summer beverage.
Unfortunately, a more familiar drink made with fermented barley (beer) delivers none of the same health benefits. But this also means that if you can't find roasted barley in the markets or tea shops, you can ask a home brewer where he gets his.
Barley Tea (Mugicha) Adapted from Recipezaar
Makes 1 large or 2 cups
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) roasted barley
- 2 pints water
- lemon slices, optional
- honey or sugar, optional (honey helps soothe sore throats)
Put barley and water in a small sauce pot and bring water to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes. Strain and drink immediately, or store in the fridge to drink it cold. Flavor with optional lemon and honey or sugar when ready to drink.