July 16, 2012: Summer Relief with Mugicha

July 16, 2012

Uggg! With the heat of Summer I suffer the most. In the Winter I almost always seem to manage to get reasonably comfortable by layering up, or maybe I just have a high tolerance to cold. With high heat and humidity…forget it, I’m just a mess! I still make myself run my 5 miles, but I honestly can’t say I enjoy it during these uncomfortable days. When simply walking across my house makes me break out in a sweat, my run turns me into a sopping mess and leaves me panting like a dog. I can only take the lightest of foods with the heat, so I eat a lot of salads in Summer. Water is a necessity, but honestly, water can get a bit boring. I stay away from sodas of all sorts and even juices I have in moderation, as even the best of them have some sugar in them. My usual Summer staple is iced green tea, which only has a tad of honey as a sweetener.

I had a nice spontaneous visit from Teja, Barb and Katie, yesterday. Katie was able to cool off in the lake while the adults hung out in the shade on shore. After, I made an impromptu dinner for them, typical of my Summer fare:

  • Tapenade of olive oil, chopped garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives from my home-made brine, over whole wheat pasta with parmesan cheese
  • Mixed green salad with toasted almond slivers and balsamic vinegar dressing
  • Whole chilled cherries for dessert

They surprised me with a stash of food, most welcome was mugicha, which I can now add to my arsenal of Summer libations.

Mugicha is a roasted barley tea, typically from Japan, although barley tea is consumed all across the Orient, the British Isles and even Mexico, where they call it aquas frescas. It has a light, slightly bitter taste that does not compete with food, perfect for the delicate Japanese cuisine. Mugicha is not truly a tea, per se. Being made from barley, it is officially a tisane. Mugicha has only a few calories, no fat, no caffeine, no sugar (unless you add some) and is very rich in antioxidants. Visiting many sources for this article, a phrase keeps coming up that “mugicha is much more satisfying than water.”

Mugicha has many health benefits, as it is said to reduce stress; inhibit bacterial colonization (specifically those that have to do with tooth decay); reduce cholesterol; help prevent diabetes; and is a possible cancer preventative. One health caveat: barley is grain with gluten, so anyone with a gluten intolerance might want to try my green tea recipe instead of mugicha.

There are  several ways to make and brew mugicha. For the purist, you can roast your own unhulled barley and steep in hot water (the barley then makes a good cereal.) Teja brought me the larger tea-bags of mugicha that are typical in Japan. You can cold brew mugicha by adding 1 of these bags to 1 Qt. water and chill overnight. You may make sun tea, by adding the same amount in a glass container and let it sit in the sun all day, then chilling. I made mine by brewing with boiling water for three minutes and then chilling. The heat is said to release more antioxidants.

One thing that I learned while researching is that because mugicha is a grain, over time is can turn rancid. My bags went right into the freezer, so now I’m assured of a steady supply of a cool and healthy libation to get me over the sweltering Summer days!


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