Posted in Kafevend Blog

In anticipation of the fast approaching Wimbledon fortnight we decided that today was the perfect opportunity to dedicate a blog to the drink with the strongest and longest connection to the tournament. We're talking, of course, about Robinson's Barley Water. Most supermarkets have their own brand versions nowadays, but Robinson's is still the name that springs to mind when barley water is mentioned and certainly the only brand we'll be seeing on Centre Court!

Tennis players at Wimbledon began to quench their thirst with lemon barley water back in 1934 when Eric Smedley Hodgson, a medical adviser and sales rep from Robinson's then sister company Colman's, used a mixture of lemon juice, sugar and water along with the company's Patent Barley Crystals to provide a hydrating drink for them to sip between games. It was a big hit and by the following year Robinson's Lemon Barley Water had gone into production. Orange Barley Water followed, to be joined more recently by a host of other fruit flavours. Wimbledon and Robinson's have maintained their connection ever since and the championship provides an annual boost to Barley Water sales figures as well as an annual enthusiasm for getting out and having a go at tennis ourselves!

Although it was 1935 when Barley Water was born in its convenient squash form, Robinson's parent company, Robinson and Belville, started manufacturing Patent Barley and Groats in 1823. The Patent Barley, which came in powdered form, was stirred into boiling water and used as a medicinal aid for kidney complaints and fevers. It wasn't really until Robinson's innovation in 1935 that its role as a general drink was secured.

Likewise, barley water had been in existence long before Robinson and Belville came up with their handy packets of powder in 1823. It's hard to pinpoint exactly how long people have been drinking barley water, but it's safe to say that once our ancestors began farming the land, barley was one of the first grains to be cultivated and its use in a variety of food and drinks was guaranteed. As well as forming the basis for barley water and most beers, barley is also used to make tea!

You may recall from our blog a couple of weeks ago that rice tea is particularly popular in Japan where it's called genmaicha. Similarly, the Japanese are big fans of mugicha, or barley tea. The tea, which is actually popular in many areas of Asia, tends to be served cold rather than hot, but what differentiates it from barley water is that the grains must first be roasted, which produces a very different flavour profile. It's possible to buy teabags containing roasted ground barley in Japan, or to purchase a can from one of the nation's ubiquitous vending machines. If you fancy trying some yourself it's going to take a little more effort, but not too much! The only ingredients required are pearl barley and water and there are plenty of recipe suggestions for both the tea and barley water itself on the web. On the other hand if you wish to expend as little effort as possible you could always nip round the corner for a bottle of Robinson's!

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