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.
Makes 2 quarts of tea.
2 quarts spring water
large pot for boiling water
fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth
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.