Barley tea

Barley tea is a roasted-grain-based infusion made from barley. It is a staple across many East Asian countries such as China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.[1] It has a toasty, bitter flavor.[2][1]

Barley tea
TypeHerbal tea

Other names
  • Bori-cha
  • dàmài-chá
  • mugi-cha
  • be̍h-á-tê
OriginEast Asia

Quick descriptionTea made from roasted barley

Temperature100 °C (212 °F)
Time5–10 minutes
Barley tea
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese大麥茶
Simplified Chinese大麦茶
Literal meaningbarley tea
Korean name
Literal meaningbarley tea
Japanese name

In Korea, the tea is consumed either hot or cold, often taking the place of drinking water in many homes and restaurants.[3][4] In Japan, it is usually served cold and is a popular summertime refreshment.[5] The tea is also widely available in tea bags or bottled in Korea and Japan.[4][5]


In China, barley tea is called dàmài-chá (大麦茶; 大麥茶) or mài-chá (麦茶; 麥茶), in which dàmài (大麦; 大麥) or mài (; ) means "barley" and chá () means "tea".

In Japan, barley tea is called mugi-cha (麦茶), which shares the same Chinese characters as Chinese mài-chá (麦茶; 麥茶), or mugi-yu (麦湯; むぎゆ), in which yu (; ) also means "hot water".

In Korea, barley tea is called bori-cha (보리차), in which the native Korean bori (보리) means "barley" and Sino-Korean cha (; ) shares the same Chinese character meaning "tea".

In Taiwan, barley tea is called be̍h-á-tê (麥仔茶), in which be̍h-á (麥仔) means "barley" and () means "tea".


The Japanese aristocracy has consumed the tea since the Heian Period.[6][7]. Samurai began to consume it in Sengoku period.[8][7]. During the Edo period, street stalls specializing in barley tea became popular among the common people.[9][10][7]


Roasted barley grains
A tea bag for a jar of barley tea

The tea can be prepared by boiling roasted unhulled barley kernels in water or brewing roasted and ground barley in hot water. In Japan, tea bags containing ground barley became more popular than the traditional barley kernels during the early 1980s and remain the norm today. The tea is also available prepackaged in PET bottles.

Bottled tea

Bottled barley tea is sold at supermarkets, convenience stores, and in vending machines in Japan and Korea. Sold mostly in PET bottles, cold barley tea is a very popular summertime drink in Japan.[5] In Korea, hot barley tea in heat-resistant PET bottles is also found in vending machines and in heated cabinets in convenience stores.[11]

Blended barley and similar teas

In Korea, roasted barley is also often combined with roasted corn, as the corn's sweetness offsets the slightly bitter flavor of the barley. The tea made from roasted corn is called oksusu-cha (corn tea), and the tea made from roasted corn and roasted barley is called oksusu-bori-cha (corn barley tea). Several similar drinks made from roasted grains include hyeonmi-cha (brown rice tea), gyeolmyeongja-cha (sicklepod seed tea), and memil-cha (buckwheat tea).

Roasted barley tea, sold in ground form and sometimes combined with chicory or other ingredients, is also sold as a coffee substitute.[12]


Barley tea is rich in antioxidants, including chlorogenic and vanillic acids, and quercetin, but contains trace amounts of an antinutrient called acrylamide.[13]

See also


  1. Lee, J. (4 January 2016). "5 winter warmers that are caffeine-free". Christian Today. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  2. Allan, M. Carrie; Allan, M. Carrie (22 May 2016). "What's better than a tall glass of iced tea? One with booze stirred in". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  3. De Mente, Boyé Lafayette (2012). The Korean mind : understanding contemporary Korean culture. Tokyo: Tuttle Pub. p. 420. ISBN 978-0-8048-4271-6. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  4. Won, Ho-jung (22 April 2016). "[Weekender] Healthful Korean tea to fit every need". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  5. Beseel, Casey (16 July 2015). "Japan's barley soda is so weird in so many ways, yet so right in one 【Taste test】". RocketNews24. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  6. 源順, 和妙類聚抄, 承平(931AD - 938AD)
  7. 全国麦茶工業共同組合, 麦茶の歴史
  8. 北野大茶湯の記, 16 century
  9. 人見必大, 本朝食鑑, 1967
  10. 達磨屋活東子 達磨屋五一, 燕石十種, 第五 寛天見聞記, 1857 - 1863
  11. 이, 주현 (28 November 2016). "웅진식품, '하늘보리' 온장 제품 출시…동절기 포트폴리오 강화" [Woongjin Food launches hot 'Haneul Bori', augmenting winter portfolio]. The Asia Economy Daily (in Korean). Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  12. Maier, H. G. (1987). "Coffee Substitutes Made from Cereals". In Clarke, R.J.; Macrae, R. (eds.). Coffee: Related Beverages. pp. 5–8. ISBN 978-1-85166-103-9.
  13. "Barley Tea: Nutrition, Benefits, and Side Effects". Healthline. 2020-08-31. Retrieved 2023-01-26.
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