Korean Barley Tea

After coming back from the World Tea Expo, I spent the lot of last week moving from my small apartment into a larger house.  I don’t know what my husband and I were thinking when we planned for a move smack in the middle of hot, sunny June.  The heat was relentless and the work was endless, not to mention that we couldn’t get the internet hooked up until just yesterday.  Amidst mountains of cardboard boxes lying around, I ripped open the box labeled “kitchen” and grabbed the first stockpot I could find.  Throwing some barley and water into the pot, 20 minutes later I had boiled up some wholesome Boricha.  Later that evening when winding down from the exhausting move, a tall, chilly glass of Korean Barley Tea was pure, simple comfort.

Barley tea is called Boricha in Korean and Mugicha in Japanese.  You can’t go to any Korean restaurant without being served plentiful cupfuls of this golden liquid.  After the Tea Expo festivities were over, I had purchased some large bags of roasted barley and roasted corn in the South Bay area of LA, a place brimming with Korean eateries and food markets. Searching for some new and interesting Korean teas actually led me right back to the classics: barley and corn tea.  Previously, I had only made pre-portioned tea bag barley tea, but after seeing rustic sacs of beautiful grains at S-mart in Torrance, I decided to give the homemade version a try.

Boricha is nothing more than toasted barley boiled in water.  This tisane is caffeine-free but takes on the a golden tea-like shade of honey after the barley has been boiled.  It’s taste is nutty and slightly sweet with warm, toasty undertones.  In the best way possible, it’s kind of like drinking beer without the alcohol and carbonation.

Although I purchased barley that was already roasted, you can buy unroasted barley and toast it yourself at home, to a darkness of your liking.  Simply place a large, heavy skillet (cast iron will work well) on medium high heat on the stove, then throw the washed grains into the skillet. Use a wooden spatula to move the barley grains around the hot pan until you get an even, medium shade of brown to all the grains (they should look something like the photo below).

Another type of Korean tea that tastes very similar to barley tea is roasted corn tea.  Again, the kernels are purchased already toasted.  In a Korean market, corn tea, called Oksusucha, is found in the tea aisle, right by the sacks of roasted barley.  The taste of roasted corn tea is slightly sweeter than that of the barley, so I like to add some of it to my barley tea boil to round out the taste of the steep.  The corn gives the barley tea a deeper, more robust flavor, enhancing its distinctive taste rather than distracting from it.  If you love Japanese Genmaicha, or brown rice tea, you will love the taste of roasted corn tea too.

In my opinion, barley and corn teas are best enjoyed chilled, without any additions (not even ice!).  In the winter time, many enjoy this brew hot with a bit of honey or lemon added.  As summer time approaches, Korean Barley Tea is the perfect thirst quencher, and can be served any time of day as the brew is entirely caffeine-free.

This is an ideal beverage to serve with Korean food (bulgogi, kalbi, japchae) or spicier dishes–consider it like an Asian House Iced Tea.  As the days get longer and weather gets hotter, make plenty of crisp, refreshing Korean Barley Tea to store in the fridge.  Sipped by the pool, guzzled after hitting the gym, or gulped to calm your taste buds after eating some fiery hot slices of kimchi, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this wholesome and simple staple of Korean cuisine.

Boricha (Korean Barley Tea)

Makes 2 quarts of tea.

Ingredients:

2 quarts spring water

1/2 cup roasted barley OR 1/4 cup roasted barley and 1/4 cup roasted corn

Equipment:

large pot for boiling water

fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth

large pitcher

Directions:

1.)  In a strainer, rinse the barley (and corn, if using) under cold water.  Place the grains in a large pot and add 2 quarts of spring water.

2.)  Place the water-barley mixture on the stove and let it come to a rolling boil.

3.)  Simmer the tea on medium heat for 20 minutes.  After the 20 minutes are up, you will notice that the grains have settled to the bottom of the pot.

4.)  Carefully pour the tea through a fine mesh sieve or piece of cheesecloth (in a sieve) into a large pitcher.

5.)  Let the tea come to room temperature, then cover and place in fridge to cool completely.  I like to serve the tea chilled, without ice, but it can also be served warm or hot…easy right? Enjoy!

 

27 thoughts on “Korean Barley Tea

  1. I just came back from having lunch at a Korean restaurant (ummm dolsot bibimbap!) but didn’t think to ask for the tea. I’ve had it before and really enjoy it though. Hope the move went well, Bonnie!

    • Sounds so yummy! I’ve always just been offered barley tea at Korean restaurants, hopefully you’ll get your fill the next time! I’m so relieved that the move is all over and done with Ngan…organized my tea cabinet yesterday. :)

  2. What a coincidence, I wanted to post about mugicha as well :)
    First of all, great blog post again, I learned a lot and did not know that Koreans have the same tea with just a different name! I have difficulties finding mugicha in Vienna and had to bother my Japanese friends to get me some from Japan but think I will be more successful in Korean shops searching for Boricha ;) A lot of people have praised the Korean corn tea, I yet have to try it out and I love your idea of combining the teas. Hope you had a nice week-end even though moving in June is quite exhausting!

    • Boricha is so easy to make Beatrice! In my opinion, the corn tea actually tastes very similar to Boricha. If you like barley tea you are likely to like corn tea too. I’ll be keeping my eyes out for that mugicha post! ;)

  3. when i’m at the asian markets and i’m strolling the rice aisle i see the bags of barley. i typically ignore them, usually more focused on finding the glutinous or brown rice. my concern is if i don’t end up liking the drink (cus i’m mainly just a carbonated water drinker), what else would i be able to do with the barley?

    • Yes, the bags of barley tea are quite large. If you want to try it out before committing, I would suggest 1.) try some at a Korean restaurant, 2.) buy a small bag of hulled (not pearl) barley from a health food store and toast it yourself to make the tea (you can use the rest in a similar way that you would make brown rice), or 3.) buy a box of Korean Barley Tea (in teabag form, House Foods is a common brand), which is basically the shortcut version of Korean Barley Tea–the taste will be very similar, and then you can know whether or not you like the stuff!

  4. I remember drinking a lot of this back when I lived in Japan. I haven’t been able to find any around here (The Netherlands) but maybe I should give toasting some myself a try. Super happy with the clear instructions you’re giving!

    • Thank you Cutecle! Toasting it yourself should yield very similar results. Just watch the grains at they roast in the dry pan to make sure they don’t burn. Thanks for stopping by and good luck!! :)

    • Hi,
      you can find Korean barley and corn tea (tea bags) at a number of Korean grocery shops in Rotterdam (Inter-Burgo, Wah Nam-Hong, Amazing Oriental, Kazaguruma) and Amstelveen (Shilla). You might get lucky at Amazing Oriental, which has shops in the larger cities in the Netherlands.

      Happy shopping!

      • Hey JJ! This is so interesting, I’m actually from the US and have never heard of these stores! Next time I am visiting overseas I’ll know what to look for now…thanks so much for stopping by and dropping me a line! :)

  5. Awesome, very helpful! I recently got a travelling tea box and there’s some Korean roasted barley tea included with no instructions – and then I remembered you did a post on how to make it, yay!

    • Hey there! I’m so sorry it took so long for me to get back to you! Barley tea is awesome, so perfect for these hot summer months. And by the way, I just ordered some Mandala Milk Oolong per your suggestion…love your site, hope all is well! :)

      • No worries, I was getting some weirdness with my blog comments. I had the iced barely tea a few days ago and it turned out great – I will be buying more at my next trip to H mart. Let me know what you think of the milk oolong! Mandala Tea has some amazing pu’er too!

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