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Barley tea is a tea brewed from toasted barley. This tea is especially popular in Japan, Korea, and China, although it is consumed in other Asian nations and regions with a large Asian community as well. It has a very nutty, warming flavor that some people find is an acquired taste. Asian markets often carry roasted barley that can be used to make tea, and some also carry tea bags that can be used for quick brewing.
In Japan, barley tea is known as mugicha, and it is traditionally served in the summer as a cooling drink. The Japanese also believe that it helps to extract impurities from the blood, and to thin the blood in hot summer weather. In Korea, the tea is known as boricha, and it is drunk hot in winter and cool in summer. The Chinese sometimes pair this tea with heavy meals to aid digestion, and they use it to treat nausea.
Traditionally, the tea is made by tossing a handful of barley grains into a kettle of water, bringing the kettle to a boil, and then allowing the tea to steep briefly before pouring. In some households, the kettle may simply be left out on the stove, with members of the household serving themselves as desired. Over the course of a day, the flavor of the tea will deepen, becoming increasingly nutty and intense.
Individual teapots and cups of barley tea can also be brewed. The amount of barley can be adjusted, depending on the flavor desired. Some Korean cooks like their tea so intense that it tastes almost like coffee, while Japanese often enjoy more mildly flavored drinks in the summer months. It can also be brewed in cold water, or as sun tea, which can be useful in the summer, when cooks do not want to heat up the kitchen by boiling water.
This tea is traditionally served plain, allowing people to appreciate the flavor as-is. In regions where cooks have difficulty finding roasted barley to make their own, regular barley can be toasted in a heavy saucepan on the stove top or in a pan in the oven. If possible, whole barley in its husk should be used, so that the expected nutty flavor will develop. The barley should be tossed periodically as it toasts, ensuring that all of the grains become uniformly browned in the process.