Roasted barley tea is a refreshing beverage enjoyed in China, Korea and Japan. In China it is known as “damaicha” 大麦茶, in Korea “boricha” 보리차 and in Japan “mugicha” 麦茶. In all three languages, the word “cha” means “tea”.
Made from roasted un-hulled barley grains, the drink has slightly bitter undertones and thus may be an acquired taste, more so considering the drink is usually consumed unsweetened. Roasted barley tea is appreciated in these countries for its cooling properties with some claiming the drink to be more refreshing than water. In Japan, it is often drunk chilled as a summer drink. Its historic popularity as a summer drink may stem from the fact that barley grains are harvested in the summer season, the freshness of which makes a more flavorful beverage.
Mugicha may be one of Japan’s oldest beverages; according to Japanese history, roasted barley tea was consumed by the aristocrats of the Heian period (794-1185) during which time it was known as “mugiyu” 麦湯 .
Japanese believe barley tea helps to cleanse the body and the beverage is also consumed to promote digestion after a greasy meal. A very popular drink in Korea, barley tea is appreciated for its health benefits and is drunk on a daily basis by most (if not all) Koreans. Koreans consume the drink chilled during hot summers and warm during cold winters. The drink is not as popular in China but its popularity is increasing. Chinese generally drink barley tea hot.
While ready-made barley teas and tea bags are available, the traditional method of making the tea produces a better tasting tea. Ideally, roast the un-hulled barley just prior to making a barley tea since roasted un-hulled barley turns rancid quite quickly.
- 1/3 cup un-hulled barley
- 6-8 cups spring water
In a dry cast-iron skillet over medium heat, toast the un-hulled barley, for about 10-15 minutes until the barley turns a deep, dark brown hue and is fragrant. Use a spatula to continuously stir the barley to ensure even browning.
Turn out the roasted grains to a paper towel and let cool.
In a saucepan, pour the water.
Over medium heat, bring the water to a rolling boil.
Once boiling, add in the roasted barley grains.
Turn heat down to low and simmer for about 10-20 minutes. The liquid will turn a rich brown hue; the longer the tea simmers the darker the color and the more robust the flavor.
Stop heat and let the barley steep a few minutes.
If drinking chilled, let the tea cool. Once cooled, strain the mixture into a pitcher and chill.
If drinking warm or hot, strain the barley tea and serve.