Sip Some Mugicha: Refreshing Japanese Barley Tea

Tea is loved across the world as something that is taken in between meals, something to go with a meal, or something to finish it with. There are many kinds of teas that are brewed for their unique flavors and benefits. Not all teas, however, come from leaves. One kind of tea that isn’t made of leaves is enjoyed across the three nations of China, Japan, and Kore - that beverage is Mugicha, or in English, Barley Tea. 

By Corpse Reviver [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

What Is Mugicha, Exactly?

Mugicha or mugi-cha (麦茶; むぎちゃ) is the Japanese word for barley tea. Because “yu” can also mean tea, the drink can also be known as “mugi-yu” (麦湯; むぎゆ). Across the sea, it has different names; in China, it is called either “mai-cha” (麦茶; 麥茶) or “damai-cha” (大麦茶; 大麥茶), as barley is “mai” in Chinese, and “cha” means tea. “Bori-cha” (보리차) is what this tea is called in Korea. “Barley” in Korean is “Bori”, and just as it is in China and Japan, “cha” means “tea”. 

Mugicha originated mostly from East Asia, thus its popularity and various names around those parts of the Asian continent. 

Roasted Barley Tea

Basically, mugicha is classified as an herbal tea made from barley grains which are roasted and then infused in water. The taste of mugicha is a little bit bitter, with a distinct, light burnt flavor that resembles the taste of something toasted. The temperature for steeping them must be at boiling point, which is 100 degrees Celsius, and it takes 5 to 10 minutes to fully brew a batch.

By WolfgangMichel [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

Roasted barley tea can have a different taste depending on the kind of barley used, as well as the serving method of the drink. It usually has a nutty taste to it, and is less bitter than coffee, despite it coming in almost the same color as its counterpart. You may find that mugicha is a little bit sweet on its own without added sweeteners  

Different Styles of Drinking Mugicha in Japan, Korea, and China

Just because something is popularly consumed in 3 different countries does not mean that it is all consumed in the same way. There isn’t any certain way the Chinese and Koreans serve their barley tea; they take it both hot and cold, and sometimes entirely replace water with this tea. This goes the same for many restaurants.

In Japan, however, mugicha is most often taken cold. Because everyone is used to taking it cold, it is often enjoyed during hot summer months such as June and July and used as something to cool oneself down. It isn’t that hard to make, either. There are many mugicha tea bags, as well as readymade bottled mugicha drinks that are easily purchased in convenience stores across Japan and Korea. 

How Much Caffeine is in Mugicha?

Because Mugicha is an herbal blend, it is completely free from caffeine. This means you can take it during any time of the day - even right before you sleep, without worrying about the effects that it could have on your bedtime. However, you should always make sure that it doesn’t have caffeine, because some manufacturers may be processing the barley alongside other ingredients that have caffeine, or they may have added some on their own.

When taken completely unadulterated, mugicha could help you regularize your bedtime routine because it contains a combination of three chemicals that help you snooze: amino acid, melatonin, and tryptophan. Drinking enough of this tea could ease you into slumber in no time. 

Does Mugicha Contain Many Calories?

One serving of 8 oz of mugicha will set you back a measly 20 calories. It has absolutely no fat and cholesterol, but it does have 8 mg of sodium. You get 28 grams of potassium, with 4 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of which becomes dietary fiber. It has absolutely no sugar and no protein.

Delectable Barley Tea Recipe Sources

You can pick your barley tea to be either strong or weak – but this recipe is just perfect. To make your own barley tea, find yourself some roasted barley – which you’ll need two tablespoons of, and 8 cups of water. Note that in case you have a hard time finding toasted barley, all you need to buy is the barley itself, while you do the toasting. Simply place the untoasted barley on a sauté pan and turn on a medium fire. Once the grains turn dark brown, you may stop toasting – this should take 5 to 10 minutes.

As for the brewing itself, add the 8 cups of water to a pot, and then add the barley. Bring the combination to a boil. Once it starts boiling, bring the fire down enough so that it simmers. Cover the pot and continue simmering for 20 minutes. Once the 20 minutes are over, you have the option to serve the tea piping hot (just be careful not to get any burns) or place it in a chiller so it can cool down and be served with ice. 

By mitsukuni - カレーライス, CC BY 2.0,

What Are Health Benefits of Drinking Mugicha?

Not only is mugicha a prime palate cleanser after meals, and an awesome refreshing drink in the sweltering heat, it also has a whole lot of benefits to drinking it regularly. Here is more information on that.

  • First, mugicha does well for your digestion which is why so many people drink it after having a full meal. This is because it acts as an antacid, which helps balance out your gut’s acidity levels. It may even help decrease acid reflux. The fiber that is present in mugicha also can help you regulate your bowel movements – that means less of a chance for you to bloat, have hemorrhoids or be constipated. 
  • Next, selenium can be found in this tea, which helps you fend off chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Selenium is also known for helping keep a healthy prostate and supports male fertility health. It also has some vitamin C, which helps you fight off free radicals, and supports your immune system. Circulation is another thing that mugicha helps with, which in turn helps you avoid a whole host of problems concerning the heart and blood clots.
  • For those who are diabetic and are looking to balance their sugar, mugicha is a recommendable beverage. When taken regularly, this drink can help balance insulin and one’s blood sugar levels. If you tend to drink soda day in and out and want to lower your sugar intake in general, mugicha is a wonderful choice instead if you want to drink something tastier than plain water. The same goes for those who are looking to lose weight. Mugicha helps satiate one’s appetite, so it’s an optimal drink to have while waiting in between meals, as it gets your metabolism going, thus burning extra fat. 
  • The antioxidants that are present in mugicha also have strong anti-inflammatory properties. If you’re dealing with chronic diseases or pain issues with your joints, drinking mugicha may contribute to easing some of your inflamed areas. Plus, as it helps the body’s oxidative stress levels, this contributes to the skin as well, leaving supple, with fewer age spots and wrinkles. Perhaps all it takes to look a little younger is a cup or two of mugicha every day.
  • Pregnant women are another set of people who can benefit from this drink. This is one of the very few herbal teas they can consume at all, because of all the good nutrients it has, namely calcium, iron, potassium, niacin, and folic acid. Even expectant mothers who have gestational diabetes are free to drink this. It is said that this tea could even possibly prevent neural tube defects and spina bifida in babies. Once they come to the last trimester, drinking mugicha days before the birth of your baby is said to aid in keeping blood loss at a minimal.
By Corpse Reviver [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Mugicha Tea Bags – For Your Drink On-The-Go

The best way to get your tea is to really brew your own organic batch from fresh, toasted barley grain. However, some don’t have the time to toast the barley and brew it, which is why mugicha tea bags are a fool-proof alternative. You may get a whole pouch of 10 bags for about 4.50 dollars, under the brand Den’s Tea. Inside each paper tea bag is crushed whole roasted barley, already pre-made for your easy access and enjoyment – but these bags are for cold brew particularly.

For Den’s brand, it’s recommended that you use a liter of water for every tea bag and let it steep for at least an hour. It takes longer for the cold brew to steep because the water is not heated when it meets the barley, which takes a longer, different process for the barley to impart its flavor and more nutrients into the water. The water should not be hot or warm, instead, it should be room temperature. If you live in a cold climate where water is harder to get to room temperature, it is suggested that you steep it for about 2 hours instead of one. 

It is important to note that in steeping these tea bags, the quality of water used is very essential. In case the water you are using comes from the tap, it is recommended that the water should be boiled for at least 3 to 5 minutes. 

Purchase Mugicha From Amazon

If you live in the U.S. and want some mugicha, they’re readily available on Amazon. Simply search “Barley Tea” or even “Mugicha”, and you will find very affordable brands, then just add the item to your cart check out and leave some feedback after you’ve tried it.

One top-rated barley tea product of Amazon is “House Food” or “House” – Mugicha (Barley) Tea. An entire packet costs around 7 to 8 dollars, and it holds 16 tea bags. Each tea bag can make a quart of tea. Just as Den’s brand, there is no need to steep the tea in hot water. Simply dunk the tea bag in a pitcher of water and leave for an hour or two, and you’ve got fresh barley tea waiting for you.

House Foods Barley Tea has 69 customer reviews so far, with a 4.5 out of 5-star rating. This brand goes head to head with ITO EN Japanese Barley Tea Kaori Kaoru. With ITO EN, it says it is “good for cold and hot”, which means you can steep a bag for 5 minutes in hot water if you wish with no problem, unlike other cold brew mugicha products. ITO EN is what many Japanese locals use to make a cold cup of mugicha and could be a perfect re-kindling of memories in summery Japan.  

Where to Find Mugicha in Singapore

You may find Mugicha in the Singaporean online store “Zairyo”. This website offers Otegaru Mugicha Tea Bags – a brand which comes from Japan. For 6.50 dollars, you get 52 whole tea bags, which are also perfect for you to use cold brew style on. You may also try MEIDI-YA, for home delivery service. They also hold the “House” brand, which goes for 6 dollars per set. 

Mugicha may be a summer drink for Japan, but it’s great to have at any time of the year.