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Iced Mugi-cha (Roasted Barley Tea)

September 28, 2011

This isn’t really a recipe, and it isn’t really summer anymore (well other than here in southern California), but don’t let that stop you. Before I take off next week for two months in Korea and Japan, I just wanted to share with you my love of mugi-cha (Japanese roasted barley tea).

It is the most refreshing and restorative summer time drink I can think of. I turn to it when I’ve already surpassed my caffeine limit for the day, when I’m feeling dehydrated yet unappetized by water, or after I arrive home from biking or yoga and need to cool off.

Japanese (むぎ茶 mugi-cha) and Korean (보리차 pori-cha) roasted barley tea bags

Mugi-cha is caffeine-free, but has a rich, almost coffee-like, nutty flavor. For me, an ice-cold pitcher of mugi-cha steeping in the fridge is one of the hallmarks of Japan in the summer. And a habit I’m not giving up anytime soon…

When I worked for a Japanese company, everyone in the office used to take turns doing o-cha touban (“tea duty”), and heading to the kitchen to boil six large tea kettles of water, then cool them in the cold water bath of an industrial-sized stoppered sink while the tea was brewing, before pouring the tea into pitchers to store in the fridge.


Making your own iced mugi-cha at home is much, much easier. In fact, most mugi-cha tea bags can be cold brewed, so it’s a matter of filling a pitcher with water, adding the tea bag to it, and storing it in the fridge to let steep for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours (depending on how strong you like the flavor).* The tea will turn a toasty light (or dark) brown color. Serve chilled and enjoy!

You can also make hot barley tea. Make sure you have the right kind of tea bags for both hot and cold steeping– or use roasted barley grains as you’d use loose leaf tea– and steep for a few minutes to taste.

And for those who are curious– or if you’re just thinking “this looks familiar…”– this same type of tea can be found in Korea, where it’s called pori-cha.** I’ve even had something like it in Taiwan, served cold and sweetened with sugar.

Unsweetened, mugi-cha is refreshing as a cool glass of water, but with a subtle roasted flavor that keeps you coming back for more.

* Remember to remove the tea bag after steeping (since the tea will start to become bitter if it stays in for longer than a few hours).

** Mugi (麦 or むぎ) means “wheat” or “barley” in Japanese, and pori (보리) means “barley” in Korean. Cha means “tea.”

Iced Mugi-cha (Roasted Barley Tea)

How to make it:

1. Fill a pitcher with water, and add one tea bag for each half gallon of water (1 bag for a small pitcher, 2 for a large one).

2. Let it steep in the fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours (depending on how strong you like the flavor).

3. Remove tea bag(s) and serve chilled.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Emily permalink
    September 28, 2011 12:18 pm

    NO WAY! I meant to write you this morning; I made my own mugicha today for the very first time, just hours before I saw this!! I roasted my own barley, too. It was all I could do to not make another batch right away.

    Consider me officially hooked.

    • September 28, 2011 6:03 pm

      Yes way! That’s awesome, Emily. I’m glad you finally tried making it & that you’re already hooked.

      How long did you end up roasting the barley? I bet it tastes even better that way… I want to try that sometime too!

      (And your next mission, should you choose to accept it: have you ever tried Korean roasted corn tea? : )

  2. July 14, 2015 1:00 pm

    Bought me some tea bags from the Asian food store and am going to try it! Directions are totally in Japanese so I’m winging it. I like unsweetened American iced tea so I’m hoping I like barley tea as well. Thanks for sharing the directions!


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