How to Make Barley Tea Properly

Barley tea is a staple in Korea and it’s brewed all year-round, prepared hot and cold. See how to make barley tea properly using roasted barley kernels and tea bags.

Roasted barley tea

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What is Barley Tea?

Barley tea isn’t technically a tea but an infusion of roasted barley kernels in water. Roasted barley is steeped in water to make barley tea.

I say it’s technically not a tea because for it to be a true tea, it needs to come from the camellia sinensis plant where all real tea comes from. It’s using the word tea is the loose sense of the word, as in an infusion of a flavor in water.

Barley tea is called boricha in Korean and mugicha in Japanese.

As a Korean-American, I grew up drinking barley tea and still drink it all year-round. I have it hot in the winter and iced in the summer. I find it to be especially refreshing in the summer and if I’m thirsty, I find cold brewed barley tea quenches my thirst way better than cold water.

It’s a staple in every Korean household and instead of drinking water, a lot of Koreans drink barley tea.

A good number of restaurants in Korea will have barley tea if you ask for it or they’ll just serve you barley tea instead of water.

RELATED: Korean Citron Yuzu Tea

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What is the Best Way to Make Barley Tea?

For hot barley tea, it’s best to boil barley in hot water on the stovetop. Steeping it in hot water is not enough to extract the full flavor.

Cold brewing it using barley tea in tea bags makes for the best and easiest iced barley tea.

What Does it Taste Like?

Barley Tea has a toasted, nutty taste with a slight bitter note. I hear it’s a bit of an acquired taste.

Is There Caffeine in Barley Tea?

Barley tea doesn’t contain any caffeine which is why it’s great to drink all day and night — it won’t keep you up!

How Many Calories are in Barley Tea?

Each serving of boricha or mugicha has a whopping 2 calories.

Do You Add Sugar?

Sugar isn’t added to traditional Korean barley tea. I never add sugar to mine.

What Food Pairs Well with Barley Tea?

Barley tea is interchangeable with water for me. It pairs with everything — savories and sweets.

Whether it’s a BLT sandwich,chicken pho, or a slice of roll cake, it all goes with barley tea.

How Should I Store Barley Tea?

The Korean tea bags I purchased have the worst packaging for barley tea. There is a plastic covering around the box but once opened, the tea bags are exposed to odor and humidity.

After opening the box, store the tea bags in the box in an airtight plastic bag or in an airtight glass container if you want to avoid using plastic.

The Japanese tea bags were much more thoughtfully packaged with sealed foil bags that contained 4 tea bags each in a box of 16 tea bags.

For the barley kernels, I like to store the entire bag in a bigger plastic zip bag or put the kernels in an airtight glass storage container.

Roasted barley tea

Where to Buy Roasted Barley Tea

Every Korean supermarket carries barley tea or roasted barley so if you live near one, get it from there since it’ll most likely be fresher and cheaper.

If you want to purchase it on Amazon, it’ll cost you roughly double but you’ll see a lot more variety and brands to choose from.

I bought this roasted barley from a Korean supermarket and it was about $3.50 for the one pound bag.

Online, I found similar ones, but they were more expensive for the same amount (like this one and this one.)

When buying barley, just make sure they’re dark brown which indicates they’re roasted.

RELATED: How to Make the Best Iced Tea (Cold Brew It!)

Iced barley tea bags

Korean barley tea bags


Where to Buy Barley Tea Bags

Barley tea bags come in boxes and they’re sold in Japanese and Korean markets. Each tea bag is for making four cups of tea, not for individual cups. 

In the photo above, the Japanese brand is on the left and the Korean brand is on the right.

Each tea bag contains 100% barley tea that has been crushed. Nothing else has been added. Crushed barley tea is what makes the brewing process so quick.

Like regular tea in tea bags, the more crushed the tea, the quicker the tea will brew and show a darker color.

barley tea

What I Used to Make Barley Tea

FOR HOT BARLEY TEA

FOR ICED BARLEY TEA

How to make barley tea

How to Make Hot Barley Tea

The best way to make hot barley tea is using whole barley kernels instead of tea bags.

The basic recipe is 1 tablespoon of barley kernels for every 2 cups of water.

  • Fill a pot or kettle with 4 cups of water. Scoop in 2 tablespoons of barley kernels.
  • On the stovetop, bring the water to boil. After water comes to a boil, turn off heat and steep for 5-10 minutes, depending on how strong you want your tea.
  • Strain out barley kernels and it’s ready to drink.

Keep in mind that brewing it for longer will result in a darker color and stronger taste.

Because I drink so much of it, I have a special kettle with a giant mesh strainer (similar) that I only use for making barley tea and roasted corn tea (another Korean staple drink).

The mesh strainer in the kettle makes it super easy to get the barley kernels out of the water.

Iced barley tea

How to Make Iced Barley Tea 

The best way to make iced barley tea is to cold brew it. Cold brewing is a method where you use cold water to slowly steep tea. 

Cold brewing takes longer than making hot tea then cooling it down but it’s my preferred method to making any type of iced tea.

Each barley tea bag makes 4 cups, or one quart, of tea.

  • Take a 4-cup pitcher of water (cold or lukewarm) and pop in a barley tea bag.
  • Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Take out the tea bag and discard.
  • Cold brewed barley tea can be served with or without ice.

RELATED: Cold Brew Iced Tea Makers

korean barley tea

 
 
 

Barley Tea

Barley Tea

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Make barley tea using different brewing methods using roasted barley kernels and tea bags.

Ingredients

Instructions

HOT BARLEY TEA

  1. In a kettle, boil together water and barley kernels.
  2. After water comes to a boil, turn off heat and steep for 5-10 minutes, depending on how strong you want your tea.
  3. Strain out barley and serve.

ICED BARLEY TEA

  1. Place barley tea bag in a pitcher of cold or lukewarm water.
  2. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours and discard tea bag.
  3. Serve with or without ice.

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3 Comments

  • Maxat
    1 year ago

    Thank you for this post. How to roast barley grains? In my country I don’t think I can find Barley tea bags but can find barley kernels. I want to try barley tea.

    • Oh, How Civilized
      1 year ago

      Hi Maxat, I’ve never had to roast barley so I’m not sure I can provide an answer. I would start with toasting barley kernels on the stovetop, dry, for about 5-10 minutes until they brown.

  • 8 months ago

    A simple popcorn maker is the ideal barley roaster. I use the whole grain Here is the method.
    How I make my mugachi. The most reasonable barley available to me is pot barley from bulk barn. It is slightly processed to remove most of the hulls, yet retain most of the berry. About 15 grams are used for a cup of finished tea, this is about a heaping tablespoon. I make a liter at a time which is very convenient about five cups.
    Method: Toast 3 minutes in a sunbeam popcorn maker. Stir while roasting to make homogeneous. The toasted barley is then put in the blender with one liter of water and beat into a slurry. This slurry is placed in a double boiler for steeping about 1.5 hours. This is just below boiling.The pulp and liquid mix well and make a complete drinkable liquid. I might add in the old days people did not have a blender, so my method hopefully improves on the process. This unique process utilized the whole barley grain.

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