mugicha: the perfect summer drink

Courtney Takabayashi
June 09, 2023

As temperatures rise this summer, it’s important to keep hydrated. While water is always a good choice, sometimes you may want something different. Enter roasted barley tea, or “mugicha” in Japanese. This refreshing, caffeine-free tea is a popular staple in Asian countries like Japan, Korea, and China.

Ai Tanaka, tea lover and Organizational Development and Effectiveness senior business partner at HMSA, shared memories of drinking mugicha while growing up in Japan. She also showed us how she prepares this delicious tea.

Toasty flavor of childhood
While children in Hawaii enjoy drinking lemonade, fruit punch, and POG to keep cool, Tanaka grew up drinking mugicha in Japan. “It’s the perfect thirst quencher,” she says. “I drank it every day!”

During the hot and muggy summers of Japan, iced mugicha was a necessity. “And during the cold months, we drank it hot,” Tanaka says. “It warmed us from the inside out.”

Unlike green and black teas that are made from the Camellia sinensis plant, mugicha is made from barley. When this cereal grain is roasted, it produces a unique, toasty flavor.

Health benefits
Tanaka drinks mugicha every day because it’s delicious, calorie-free, and has health benefits. “Mugicha doesn’t contain caffeine and it’s good for digestion, the immune system, and may prevent tooth decay,” she says. “That’s why it’s one of my favorite drinks.”

Here’s more information about the health benefits of barley tea:

  • Good for digestion. A natural antacid, barley tea has been shown to relieve heartburn and acid reflux.
  • Rich in antioxidants. Chlorogenic and vanillic acids with anti-inflammatory effects may boost how much fat your body burns at rest. Quercetin may also improve heart health, blood pressure and brain health.
  • Might improve immunity. Barley tea is filled with vitamin C, which helps increase the production of white blood cells. Increased white blood cells can help protect the immune system and shorten the length of a cold.
  • May prevent tooth decay. A study published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the antioxidants and polyphenols in barley tea can help prevent teeth from decaying and protect teeth from plaque buildup that can cause cavities.
  • Relaxing. Barley tea contains melatonin and tryptophan, which can promote better sleep. Melatonin and tryptophan trigger neurotransmitters in the brain, increasing the feelings of relaxation and sleepiness.  

Anyone who is on a gluten- or grain-free diet or has celiac disease should avoid mugicha since barley contains gluten

How to prepare mugicha
“I can still picture my grandma in Japan making mugicha from scratch by boiling roasted barley kernels in a big kettle,” Tanaka says. “But today, for convenience, I buy mugicha tea bags that are made with crushed barley. It stills tastes delicious.” Luckily, a few Asian grocery stores in Hawaii carry mugicha teabags. And best of all, it’s economical and easy to prepare.

“For cold brew, fill a container with water, about one liter, add a mugicha tea bag,” Tanaka says. “Let it steep for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator. That’s it!”

"Since there’s no preservatives in the tea, mugicha will only last for a few days in the refrigerator," Tanaka says. “So, drink up!” 

For hot brew, add hot water and a mugicha tea bag into a heat-proof container or kettle. Let steep three to five minutes and enjoy.

Tea time
Watch as Tanaka introduces mugicha to HMSA Social Media and PR Specialist, Jessika Orozco. Find out what Orozco thinks of roasted barley tea!

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