Roasted barley tea may be the most popular beverage in Korea. It's traditionally served both hot and cold in homes, in restaurants and at other gatherings, either in place of water or alongside water, and many Koreans drink copious amounts of it each day.
It's known as bori cha (or sometimes boricha) in Korean. People in Japan and China also drink roasted barley tea. In Japan, it's known as mugicha, and in China, it's known as dàmàichá or màichá. You shouldn't confuse it with matcha tea, though — matcha is Japanese green tea, not barley tea.
Roasted barley tea is most popular in the summer in Japan, but is served all year long in Korea. Its temperature can vary with the seasons: in the summer, you'll probably prepare it cold, while in the winter, it's more likely to be hot.
Like black and green tea, roasted barley tea offers some potential health benefits. For example, it contains antioxidants that may help fight inflammation. Traditionally, the tea is said to aid digestion, circulation, and overall cardiovascular function. It's also free of caffeine, although some people say it gives them a boost of subtle energy.
Roasted barley tea also is basically free of calories, although if you add milk to it (which is common) or sugar (less common), those can boost the calories the tea contains. Some people also add salt to their roasted barley tea.
So what does roasted barley tea taste like? It's generally light and nutty in flavor, although its character can vary significantly depending on how much barley is used, how long (and at what temperature) the barley is roasted, and how long the tea is steeped.
As with all teas, letting it steep longer will produce a stronger tea. If roasted barley tea is made particularly strong, it can taste somewhat like coffee.
Look for roasted barley in a local Asian market, or for ready-to-steep roasted barley tea (loose or in tea bags) in markets or online. You also can purchase raw barley and toast it yourself prior to making tea — just be sure not to over-cook it, or your tea will taste burnt.
Serve your tea immediately or refrigerate it. Since roasted barley tea contains a bit of starch, it can go bad unless refrigerated.
- 2 Tbsp roasted barley*
- 8 cups water
- In a small pot, bring barley and water to a boil.
- Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
- Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator and serve cold.
*If you cannot find the roasted barley, you can make your own by toasting barley in a saute pan over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until the grains turn a dark brown color.