When the heat and humidity get rough in this country, the Japanese make MUGICHA (roasted barely tea). Granted Aomori is pretty cool in comparison to the 70% humidity going on in Nagasaki during the summer (being this far North has its advantages and disadvantages) but for a good two weeks, the atmosphere gets muggy and gross. For those of you who have never experienced humidity: it’s the feeling of just barely stepping outside and sweating all over. ALL OVER. It’s the feeling of needing a shower every three hours or so. In short, it’s unpleasant and dehydrating.
Native Californians have no idea what humidity means. Even on the rare occasion when the winds blow just so, bringing in a bit of moisture, the heat in SoCal is for the most part dry. On an evolutionary footnote, I should be an ideal candidate to withstand humidity (Mexico can get as humid as 87%) but it sure doesn’t feel that way whenever I’m in Japan.
My first summer in Japan, I spent most of my time drinking the mugicha recipe I will provide in a bit. My host mom brewed a whole 2L pitcher of it, told me to drink up because it would regulate my heat temperature, and showed me how to make it in case I ran out when she wasn’t around. Three years later and here I am making it in my own humble apartment to stave off the heat, which isn’t nearly as bad as Tokyo but the taste is quite nostalgic.
In Japan, finding bagged mugicha is quite easy: from local pharmacies to nation-wide chain supermarkets. But if living in the states, you might only be able to find it at the nearest Asian supermarket and sometimes its seasonal availability will be limited to just the summer months. In either case, mugicha is inexpensive and normally comes in bulk!
The tea bags are actually huge, approximately 3.5 times larger than your typical Twinnings. The contents are coarser as well and have an earthy, full aroma and taste. Mugicha can be sweetened with either honey or sugar (considered childish in Japan) but I prefer my teas and coffees without sweetener unless I’m sick, in which case my taste buds need something to let them know that they’re actually consuming something. Not sure how well this type of tea does with cream or milk but I’ll have to give it a try. Mugicha is mostly served cold but there’s no rule in the book that it can’t be served hot as well. You might get a more concentrated flavor but try it cold first to see how well you like it.
Mugicha can be prepared in one of two ways:
a) Fill kettle with water and bring to a boil with mugicha tea bag inside. For every 1L of water : 1 mugicha bag.
b) Pour contents into a pitcher and set in refrigerator to cool. Serve with ice cubes and sweet snacks such as red bean paste manjuu, dango, or filled mochi.
a) Pour room temperature water into pitcher. For every 1L of water : 1 mugicha bag.
b) Set on counter or kitchen table and let the contents diffuse. Once the water has reached a certain level of darkness, place the pitcher into the refrigerator and let cool.
c) Serve with ice cubes and snacks or a complete meal. Mugicha compliments food quite well.
Note: Mugicha has gluten content so if you’re particularly sensitive to this, perhaps watering down your tea might help.