Roasted barley tea is called mugicha (麦茶) in Japan and boricha (보리차) in Korea. Japanese drink roasted barley tea during summer as a cooling drink while Koreans drink it all year round. I grew to like and appreciate this nutty and roasty/toasty drink over the years and I thought that I could try making this from scratch at home!
Tips and Notes
1) Pearl barley – I use pearl barley as it’s easily available. The pearl barley is rinsed, dried between sheets of paper towels then roasted in a non-stick frying pan, without anything else. Use a pan with a big surface area so that the pearl barley roast evenly, otherwise you will have to stir more frequently.
2) Ventilation – The roasting will generate smell and smoke, so open the windows / doors to keep the kitchen ventilated.
3) Medium heat, then lower the heat – Start off with medium heat so the water on the pearl barley can evaporate. Stir to break up the clumps of pearl barley then stir only occasionally so that the pearl barley can roast. Once you get a whiff of a roasted smell, lower the heat to medium-low so the pearl barley roasts instead of burn. Stir more frequently so the pearl barley roasts evenly and doesn’t burn.
4) The darker the roast, the stronger the flavour – In the video, my pearl barley is only lightly roasted; whereas in the photos, the pearl barley is roasted until quite dark in colour. The darker the roast, the stronger the flavour (more toasty taste). The drink will also be darker in colour. It’s all up to personal preference.
5) Roast extra – I roast about 1 cup of pearl barley each time and keep the excess in the refrigerator. This way, I can make the tea whenever I want to.
6) Have time? If you have time and want to use less energy (electricity / gas), instead of simmering continuously for 30 minutes on the stove, bring water and roasted pearl barley to boil. Cover with a lid, then turn off the heat and let steep overnight. The next morning, strain the drink and store it in the refrigerator. By lunch, a refreshing drink is ready!
7) Sweeten or non-sweeten? I don’t sweeten the drink but I think if you really, really want to, no one’s stopping you!
Cooked Pearl Barley
Discarding the pearl barley is quite a waste, so I’m finding ways to use up the cooked pearl barley. The list is not extensive, hopefully I can come back and more to the list:
- Salads – Probably the easiest way to use up the pearl barley. Simply toss with your favourite vegetables and favourite salad dressing. I made a Mediterranean-styled salad dressing for the photo below. Whisk extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice) in the ratio 2:1, then whisk in ground coriander, ground cumin, salt and black pepper to taste.
- Fried barley – Made just like a fried rice recipe. If you are uncomfortable with the idea, mix in cooked rice so that there is a mix of grains. I mix the cooked barley and cooked rice in the ratio of 2:1 and stir-fry as per normal. Will try out several fried barley recipes before sharing my favourite!
Research has shown that roasted barley tea has antibacterial properties (inhibit bacterial colonization and adhesion especially in mouth cavities); rich in antioxidants and improves blood fluidity (high blood viscosity can lead to impaired blood circulation and related health disorders). In short, this naturally caffeine-free roasted barley tea is good for you, so drink more!
Roasted Barley Tea [Mugicha (麦茶) / Boricha (보리차)]
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 1 litre water
Roasting the Pearl Barley
- Rinse pearl barley and strain them. Place a piece of paper towel on a plate, transfer the pearl barley on top and cover with another piece of paper towel. Rub gently to get rid of excess water.
- Transfer the pearl barley into a shallow non-stick pan, wide enough to hold the pearl barley in a single layer so that they roast evenly.
- Roast the pearl barley over medium heat, tossing occasionally. Break the pearl barley up with a small spatula or spoon if they are clumping up. When you start to smell the roasted flavour, turn the heat down to medium-low and toss the pearl barley more frequently, until they have turned into a dark brown colour. This will take about 10 to 20 minutes
- Remove the pearl barley from heat and let cool before using. Store cooled roasted pearl barley in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Cook Roasted Barley Tea (Quick Method)
- Stir in 1/4 cup roasted pearl barley into 1 litre of water in a 2-litre pot and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes with the pot lid ajar.
- Turn off the heat and sweeten if desired. Strain the tea into a pitcher and serve
Cook Roasted Barley Tea (Slow Method)
- Stir in 1/3 cup roasted pearl barley into 1 litre of water in a 2-litre pot and bring to a boil. Sweeten if desired. Cover with a lid, then turn off the heat and steep overnight at room temperature.
- Strain the tea into a pitcher and serve.
- Barley produces a lot of foam, so using a large pot and leaving the lid ajar while simmering should help prevent the barley tea from boiling over.
- Recipe adapted from La Fuji Mama