Mugicha or Japanese Barley Tea is a caffeine-free beverage made from roasted barley grains. It has a coffee-like toasty flavor with a hint of bitterness and a dry finish. Served chilled or hot, it’s a refreshing year-round drink for all ages!
What was your summer drink growing up? Lemonade, watermelon juice, or maybe Capri Sun? Most Japanese kids enjoy drinking Mugicha (麦茶), chilled roasted barley tea.
We carry an insulated bottle filled with cold mugicha and ice to summer activities, camping, and playing in the playground. Cold mugicha is a lifeline to surviving brutally hot and muggy Japanese summers.
My children also grew up drinking mugicha and it’s a wonderful drink to keep in your refrigerator all summer long (and we drink it hot in winter too).
What is Mugicha?
Mugicha (麦茶, むぎ茶) is made from roasted unhulled barley grains that is served both hot or cold. Technically, it’s a tisane (herbal tea) and not from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, the tea leaves which is processed to make black tea, green tea, and oolong tea. There’s nothing better than quenching your thirst with ice cold mugicha on a hot day!
It’s a homey drink that you won’t find served at high-end restaurants but at ramen shops and casual eateries in Japan. Mothers in Japan give sips of mugicha to their babies and toddlers as an alternative to plain water.
It’s also a beloved drink called boricha in Korea and mai-cha or damai-cha in China.
If you are gluten sensitive or have celiac disease, mugicha is not for you.
Why Should We Drink Mugicha?
- Caffeine-free – Yes, kids drink diluted mugicha before turning 1 year old!
- Super easy to make – Just drop the tea bag into a jug and let it steep in the water!
- A great alternative to plain water and sugary drinks – It’s flavorful without sweeteners!
- Offers many great health benefits like vitamins and antioxidants
What Does It Taste Like?
The tea has a toasty taste and smells slightly similar to roasted coffee beans with mild bitter undertones. It’s smooth and subtle so kids also enjoy it.
Where To Buy Mugicha
You can find mugicha tea bags at Japanese, Korean, and Asian supermarkets. You may also find it at gourmet stores and health food stores sold as “barley tea.” Amazon sells the Itoen brand Mugicha (the blue package above).
Mugicha is also sold ready-to-drink in bottle format as well (see this product).
Health Benefits of Mugicha
There’s so much goodness in a glass of mugicha. Here are just a few of the nutrients in mugicha.
Mugicha is a natural antacid that helps relieve painful heartburn and acid reflux. The antioxidants in barley can also relieve stomach cramps and nausea. Barley is also high in dietary fibers, which regulate bowel movement, prevent constipation, and keep your gut clean.
Keeps your body hydrated and helps with detoxification
The cooling effect in barley tea is believed to help regulate your body temperature on hot summer days and hence keep you hydrated. The vitamins and minerals present in the barley help cleanse and detoxify the body.
Boosts skin health
Traditional Eastern medicine often recommends herbal tea for boosting skin health. Packed with antioxidants, barley tea is great for protecting the skin by reducing free radical production and pigmentation.
Helps you wind down
Barley contains significant levels of melatonin, a hormone naturally found in the body that help you feel relaxed and sleepy. Melatonin works to regulate the body’s internal clock by regulating sleep cycles.
In short, mugicha is amazing!
How to Brew Mugicha
You can make mugicha in both cold and hot methods.
Cold Brew Method
- Put a packet of mugicha in a measuring cup and pour 1/4 cup (60 ml) of hot water.
- Let the packet steep for 2 minutes.
- Transfer the packet and tea into a large pitcher and add 1 QT (1 L) of cold water.
- Let the packet steep for 2 hours in the refrigerator and take out the spent packet.
- Serve the mugicha over ice cubes in individual glass cups.
Hot Brew Method
- Bring 1 QT (1 L) of water and a packet of mugicha in a kettle to a boil.
- Once boiling, lower the heat to simmer and let the packet steep for 3-5 minutes.
- Remove the packet and mugicha is ready to serve hot in individual teacups.
You can also serve hot brew mugicha cold if you like. Let the kettle cool quickly by placing the kettle in a large bowl filled with ice water. *Especially in the summertime, you want to cool it as soon as possible to avoid spoiling the mugicha. Once the mugicha is completely cool, transfer it to a large pitcher and keep it in the refrigerator until cold.
How Long Does Mugicha Last in the Fridge?
You can store mugicha for up to 2-3 days in the fridge.
Other Delicious Summer Drinks
Cold Brew Mugicha (Japanese Barley Tea)
Mugicha or Japanese Barley Tea is a caffeine-free beverage made from roasted barley grains. It has a coffee-like toasty flavor with a hint of bitterness and a dry finish. Served chilled, it’s a refreshing summer drink for all ages!