Sep 17
2010

Homemade Mugicha—Japanese Roasted Barley Tea

in Drinks, Japanese, Recipes By Region, Recipes by Type

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Chilled Mugicha

When I started dating Mr. Fuji, he introduced me to mugicha (pronounced “moo-gee-cha”), a Japanese “tea” made from roasted barley that is often served chilled.  Mr. Fuji had lived in Japan on two separate occasions by the time I met him, and so he was well acquainted with the drink, as it’s a popular summertime beverage in Japan.  Its wonderful toasted grain flavor quickly grew on me, but it wasn’t until we moved to Japan during the hot and humid summer of 2002 that I gained a true appreciation of its virtues.  Before living in Japan, I had never lived in a humid climate.  I grew up in dry Southern California and went to undergraduate school in dry Utah.  The pervasiveness of the humidity in Japan took me by surprise.  It wasn’t like the dry heat that I was used to, where you could step into the shade and gain a bit of relief from the beating rays of the sun.  Humidity follows you wherever you go, constantly reminding you of its presence by making you feel as if a hot damp flannel blanket has been wrapped around your entire body.  Even once you step into an air-conditioned space, it takes quite a bit of time for your body to adjust and fully cool off.

I remember walking to the train station near our house one day on my way to work, about a week after we had moved to Tokyo, wishing I could start stripping off pieces of clothing and then douse myself in a bucket of ice water.  Even once I made it to the station and got onto the train, there was no relief to be found, as I was packed like a sardine into a train car with my fellow passengers, bodies pressed tightly against each other, each radiating too much body heat for anyone to ever be comfortable.  It was that day at work, that I remembered Mr. Fuji telling me that people say mugicha is more refreshing than water during the summer.  On my lunch break I went to the convenience store across the street, bought a cold bottle of mugicha, twisted open the lid, and took a sip.  That first sip tasted so divinely good that I took another, and another, until only a few drops were left at the bottom of the bottle.  I immediately went back inside the convenience store and bought two more bottles for the rest of the day.  I don’t think I ever left the house after that day without a bottle of mugicha in my bag.  Though after that, I started brewing my own at home.  Since then we have almost always had a pitcher of mugicha sitting in our refrigerator.  Squirrel and Bug have grown up always having one of two things in their sippy cups: milk or mugicha.  Mr. Fuji was right—nothing is more refreshing than a glass of cold mugicha on a hot day.  I don’t know what it is, but it cuts through my thirst quicker than any glass of water.  On top of being refreshingly delicious, it is naturally caffeine and calorie free and is said to be wonderful for indigestion and an overall system cleanser (not that I need any convincing to drink it).

House Mugicha brand

A few weeks ago as I pulled a tea bag out of my cupboard and put it in a pitcher of water to steep, I started to wonder about the process of actually roasting the barley.  I know that there are many people who may not have access to an Asian market, and so wouldn’t be able to just pop over to the store to buy a box of mugicha.  I figured it couldn’t be that difficult, considering it only contains one ingredient—grains of barley that have been roasted until they are dark and fragrant.  I cut open a tea bag to examine the contents and it didn’t look much like the bags of pearl barley you find at the grocery store.  So I did some research and learned that the barley roasted to make mugicha is actually unhulled barley grains.  I couldn’t find a store near me that carried unhulled barley, so I decided to experiment with regular old, easy to find pearl barley.  I bought a big bag of it in the bulk section of a local organic market for less than $2.00 (score!).

Toasting uncooked barley

This past Sunday I was finally feeling well enough to spend a few minutes out of bed stretching my legs.  I thought a glass of mugicha would taste and feel wonderful on my raw healing throat, and so decided to give making it a go.  Toasting the barley was a quick and simple process.  All I did was cook some in a large dry skillet over medium heat, slowly toasting the grains until they turned a rich dark brown color.

Barley darkening in color as it toasts

Then I simmered the toasted barley in some boiling water over low heat for a while, and then removed it from the heat and let it continue to steep as it cooled slightly.  Finally, I strained out the barley, poured the mugicha into a pitcher, and put it in the fridge to chill.

Steeping the toasted barley

When it was finally chilled, I eagerly poured myself a glass.  The first thing I noticed was that it was a bit lighter in color than the mugicha I usually made from store bought tea bags and I thought that this would translate into a lack of flavor.  I took a sip and was pleasantly surprised by the wonderful taste of the liquid.  It definitely tasted like mugicha, but it was sweeter and had a slight floral note to it that isn’t present in the mugicha I’m used to drinking.  Not only did it taste delicious, but it was like balm on my aching throat.  My family is just as enamored with it, especially my mom, who has been enjoying several glasses of it when she comes to help me with the girls.  Although fall officially starts in just a few days (September 22nd this year!), I don’t think I’ll be putting away the barley anytime soon.  We will continue drinking our mugicha year round.  And hey, during the winter when it’s cold, it will feel good to stand next to the warm stove toasting the grains of barley.  I can hear it now . . . “Barley roasting on an open fire . . . .” (Yeah, I’m corny, I know.  I just couldn’t help myself)

Chilled Mugicha 2

Print This Recipe

Homemade Mugicha (Japanese Roasted Barley Tea)

Makes 8 cups

1/3 cup uncooked pearl barley
8 cups water

1. Put the barley in a large dry skillet and toast over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring the grains and shaking the skillet occasionally so that they toast evenly, until the grains have turned a dark rich brown color.  Remove from the heat and pour out into a bowl or a paper towel to cool.

2. Bring the water to a boil in a pot, add the cooled toasted barley, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let the barley continue to steep as the mugicha cools, for about 5 minutes.

3. Strain out the barley, pour the mugicha into a pitcher and chill.


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P.S. If anyone is trying to think of something to give me for Christmas this year, I think this “Got Mugicha?” bag would make a wonderful gift.  It’s never too early to start preparing for the holidays.  Just sayin’.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

DessertForTwo September 17, 2010 at 3:06 pm

This looks delicious! I’m a big barley fan, so I can’t wait to try this. Move over sweet tea, your healthier cousin is coming in!

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Tokyo Terrace September 17, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Rachael! OK, your photos are just beautiful! Tea has never looked so good :) And I’m with you on fall being the best season. I can’t wait until it arrives here in Tokyo! xx Rachael

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Michelle in Peru September 17, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Mugicha is virtually identical to cebada, a drink in Peru made from toasted unhulled barley. I wonder if this was a Japanese/Peruvian crossover (Peru has a history of Japanese immigration). Cebada is served cold with sugar and lime juice. It’s also made into a powder and served as a coffee substitute for breakfast or supper, with hot milk or water. Also, funny you should mention the difficulty of buying unhulled barley: here in Peru, I cannot find hulled barley for cooking, only unhulled!

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Deb September 17, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Thank you for the recipe! One of favorites from Japan is the tea with roasted rice. I crave the cold green tea by Itoen, but we don’t have it up here in the California Sierra’s. Now I am going to try Barley/Mugicha.

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Laura March 20, 2013 at 2:27 am

Deb: Are you referring to genmaicha/genmai-cha? It’s green tea with toasted rice and so good. That is one of my favorite teas and I find it way easier to get than barley tea, which I have yet to find. But at least now I can make it at home!

Here’s link to some genmaicha: http://www.nmteaco.com/Genmai-Cha_p_172.html

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suki @ [Super Duper Fantastic] September 17, 2010 at 4:26 pm

wow, this is super easy! i’m wondering how much barley costs at the store. :) i will have to run down and find out. i loved barley tea when i lived in japan! yummy.

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Daydreamer Desserts September 18, 2010 at 7:16 am

Glad to hear you are doing better Rachael, thank you so much for introducing us to Mugicha… it sounds so refreshing I’m definitely giving it a try! :)

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Maria September 18, 2010 at 10:55 am

We will try this. Josh loves hot tea in the winter! I hope you are feeling better! Hang in there!

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elaine September 18, 2010 at 10:59 am

My mum is English and I was born there and lived there until I was 10. We always had lemon and barley water to drink. You can buy it here (and I do) in a bottle and then you dilute it. You have inspired me! I am out to buy barley and think I will try my hand at lemon barley water. It is slightly sweetened though so I may have to add a little sugar to it. Thanks!

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mils September 18, 2010 at 11:15 am

Mugicha! Even though the first time I heard/tasted it was only about 2 months ago, I’ve rapidly fallen in love with this drink.

Growing up (and even now) I always have access to vats of chilled boiled barley water made with pandanus leaves and a squeeze of lime. It was refreshing and yummy, perfect for humid weather. Now that I live in the UK, the ‘barley water’ squash drinks are just not the same.

Mugicha however, I totally love. The roasted flavour reminds me of genmaicha which I really love as well. Thanks for the recipe, I thought I had to buy unhulled barley which is pretty hard to source.

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Basht September 18, 2010 at 11:15 am

I grow a couple of pots full of barley every year… i think i’ll have to make this with some of my harvest :)
Thanks!

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Tammy September 18, 2010 at 11:30 am

Koreans drink this too. I ask for it every time I go to a Korean restaurant! It is refreshing and an excellent palette cleanser.

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Catherine Staat September 18, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Here is the Gateau Mousse au Chocolat recipe…

10 oz plain chocolate, chopped
4 oz unsalted butter, cut into pieces
8 eggs, separated
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3 tbsp brandy or rum (optional)
chocolate curls, to decorate

For the chocolate ganache…

8 fl oz double cream
8 oz plain chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp brandy or rum (optional)
1 oz unsalted butter, softened

1. Preheat the oven 350*F. Lightly butter two 2 8-9 inch springform tins and line the bases w/buttered greaseproof paper or non-stick baking paper.

2. In a saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter over a low heat until smooth, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks until completely blended. Beat in the brandy or rum, if using, and pour into a large bowl. Set aside, stirring occasionally.

3. In a clean greasefree bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites slowly until frothy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed and continue beating until they form soft peaks, then stiffer peaks – that just flop over the top.

4. Stir a large spoonful of whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites until they are just combined – don’t worry about a few white streaks.

5. Divide about two-thirds of the mousse between the two prepared tins, smoothing the tops evenly, and tap gently to release any air bubbles. Chill the remaining mousse.

6. Bake for 30-35 minutes until puffed; the cakes will fall slightly. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the sides of the tins and leave to cool completely. Invert the cakes on to the rack, remove the cake tin bases and peel off the papers. Wash the cake tins and dry thoroughly.

7. To assemble the cake, place one layer, flat side down in one of the clean tins. Spread the remaining mousse over the surface, smoothing the top. Top with the second cake layer, flat side up. Press down gently so the mousse is evenly distributed. Chill for 2-4 hours or overnight.

8. To make the ganache, bring the cream to the boil in a heavy saucepan over a medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate all at once, stirring until melted and smooth. Stir in the brandy or rum, if using, and beat in the softened butter. Set aside for about 5 minutes to thicken slightly (ganache should coat the back of the spoon in a thick smooth layer).

9. Run a knife around the edge of the assembled cake to loosen it, then remove the sides of the tin. Invert the cake on to a wire rack, remove the base and place the rack over a baking tray. Pour the warm ganache over the cake all at once, tilting gently to help spread it evenly on all surfaces. Use a palette knife to smooth the sides, decorate the top with chocolate curls, then leave to set.

Enjoy! :)

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marla {family fresh cooking} September 18, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Rachael, does Mugicha taste anything like Genmatcha Green tea? I love the roasted flavor of the rice in that tea. Must try this—-sounds simple, healthy & delicious. Glad to hear it is feeling good on your throat. By the way your blog re-do looks amazing! xo

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Anna@Tallgrass Kitchen September 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Thank you for the recipe! I recently read about this type of tea, and was intrigued. Now I can try it at home. And applause to you for letting your kids drink this! My two year old enjoys all sorts of ice tea too – I think many parents just assume their child wouldn’t like something, and don’t give them the opportunity to try. A nice change from regular old apple juice!

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Angela April 18, 2011 at 11:27 am

@Anna@Tallgrass Kitchen, The bad thing with regular tea is that not only does it have caffeine, but it has tanic acid. Tanic acid is used to tan leather and is very bad for you, coffee also has tanic acid. Not sure this is a good thing for anyone especially little kids. This type of tea though is very good for you as well as natural herb teas.

:)

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Shirley September 19, 2010 at 2:59 pm

I LOVE mugicha (great for the skin!) but I have to say I usually buy the bottled stuff. Thank you for posting the recipe so now I can make it at home. Love your beautiful photos!

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Heather (Heather's Dish) September 19, 2010 at 4:17 pm

here’s what i’d like to know…how have i not found this blog before now!? absolutely amazing, your story is incredible, and truly can’t wait to read more! this post is gorgeous :)

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Jim September 19, 2010 at 4:27 pm

That sounds great! It gave me an idea – make some tea with malted barley grains that I have on hand for making homebrew. I usually save the barley grain/hulls after steeping and sparging and, then, dry it in the oven, grind it, and use it to make bread. Makes a delicious roasted barley flavor bread!

You can buy malted barley grain at any homebrew supply store or online (e.g. MoreBeer) quite cheap. Since it has been malted (germinated and dried), it is more extractable than plain barley grain (whole barley grain can usually be found in food co-ops). Whole grain barley is a bear to cook with – that’s why it is usually “pearled” to remove the tough outer hull (which turns into rubber when you try to cook it!!!).

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Jayne September 19, 2010 at 6:41 pm

This is such an interesting way of drinking barley. Over here in Malaysia, we have our our barley boiled with screwpine leaves and rock/palm sugar (whichever available). Always a great way to alleviate thirst. It’s said to be good for cleansing women’s urinary tract. The dr told me that. Anyway, I’ll definitely test this method out! Lovely :-)

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Jayne September 19, 2010 at 6:42 pm

oh, and lovely new layout & header :-)

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Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite September 27, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I’ve never heard of this before – fascinating. Love your stories about living in Japan!

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Rossella October 3, 2010 at 9:47 am

I didn’t know about that tea. I want to try it asap.
We love barley, we make home made beer, so it’s time I learn how to do mugicha. It looks a sort natural and easy consequence of our passion. I let you know the result:)

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inertia2010 October 7, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Thanks for the lovely tea recipe!! In fact, i was reading in this book “Inner peace, outer beauty : natural Japanese health and beauty secrets revealed by Leigh, Michelle D” about the benefits of pearl barley and wanted to try this tea recipe that was in the book. It says that pearl barley is excellent for getting rid of any types of skin problems. It is also a great skin lightener. Most of the times, i have seen people including myself, only care for the skin externally and desire to achieve a flawless complexion. This tea benefits the skin internally in so many ways and having a cup of this tea everyday should ward off most of your health problems.

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Sophie January 15, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I work for a farm that grows barley and am trying to make my own mugicha. I only had access to pearled (with the hulls off barley) too, so I put it it in a pan to roast and… my barley started popping! Like popcorn! It did turn a little dark as it roasted, but many of the grains popped! Was not expecting that. Did any of your grains pop? I wonder if it has to do with moisture in fresh vs. stored grains. Oh well, we’ll see how it turns out!

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Nathalie ( @spacedlaw ) July 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Would the cooked barley still be suitable for a salad dish? It seems a shame to throw it away.

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cipherchain July 17, 2011 at 6:01 pm

If you mix mugi-cha and milk it tastes like Go-go-no ko-cha! Yum.

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Barbara September 26, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Many years ago I toasted my pearled Barley in a low oven to make this tea .I liked it a lot., and have made it many times since 1975.I wanted to go to Japan at that time.

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Dee October 17, 2011 at 11:42 am

Hey,

That mugicha looks lovely! I used to have it frequently when I was in the US. But after I moved to India, I’ve been struggling to find mugicha packets. So I tried brewing it at home.
My mugicha was not a clear liquid like yours. It was dark brown and cloudy and didn’t taste like mugicha at all! After a day, it even started to smell funny. I threw the rest of it away and tried not to think about the disaster! Any idea what could have gone wrong?

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Iryna B. September 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm

I’ve heard a lot about this tea and decided to try it! I should say you need to get used to the flavor if you never had it before. I was the only one in the family who finished the cup of this tea. The health benefits are great, so I will drink it again and maybe will like it more.
Thank you!

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julie March 20, 2013 at 10:03 am

I know this is an old post, but I wanted to let you know how glad I am to see this. Last night I started thinking about mugicha for the first time in years. I don’t think they have it in any of the local stores, but I know I can get barley! I can make it myself!! Thank you thank you!!!

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Ezraella Brody April 22, 2013 at 11:19 am

We are homebrewers and I teach a breadmaking class using spent grain from the beer making process. I started making barley tea when I had to steep some grains for the “spent grain” bread dough I was making for class. Now I make it quite frequently. It’s really great for me since I cannot drink caffeinne anymore. Also I use the grains we use for stout beers to make a delicious chocolaty drink without chocolate! My bread class and co-workers were amazed when I served it to them!

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Limner June 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm

I’m sipping barley tea right now! I bought a bag last month but only found the courage to try it an hour ago. It is so hot and humid here that I had to try it or strip. It’s the best thing after water. It’s delightful, refreshing, and doesn’t need lime, lemon or sweeteners. It becomes a staple in our home today. I’ve bundles bags to send to my mom and daughter. :)

I haven’t found organic barley, or any barley for that matter, to try roasting my own, but if I can do couscous, then I can roast barley.

Very nice post.

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