Sep 20

Mugi-Chai: A Japanese twist on masala chai tea

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

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I got to a point last week where swallowing cold liquids was no longer soothing on my aching throat.  The scabs over my surgery sites had just come off (too much information, sorry!), and the tissue in those areas was raw and extremely painful.  I was really wanting to drink something soothing and on the warmer side.  I don’t drink coffee, and I don’t drink most teas, but I do drink herbal tea and love it.  When I lived in Paris, I got into the habit of sitting down and having a cup of herbal tea every evening with the family I was living with.  Even now, a cup of hot tea in the evenings transports me back to that living room in Paris and gives me warm fuzzies.  I needed some of those warm fuzzies, so I started thinking about what would be soothing and the least irritating on my throat.  Then I remembered that I still had a bit of my homemade mugicha (Japanese roasted barley tea) sitting in the refrigerator, and decided to make my own Japanese twist on the Indian masala chai tea (or “chai” as it is commonly known here in the US).

Mugi-chai, a Japanese twist on chai tea

Masala chai (“spiced tea”) can be made using a wide variety of variations, but the basic concept has four components: tea, spices, sweetener, and milk.  Each region has their own variation, but all of them use these same 4 basic components.  For example, most chai in India is made using strong black tea, but the Kashmiri region brews their chai with gunpowder tea.  The most common spices used are cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, fennel seeds, cloves, and peppercorns.

Cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom pods, & star anise

For my chai mix I used fresh ginger, cinnamon, green cardamom pods, cloves, and star anise.

Fresh ginger, cinnamon, green cardamom pods, cloves, and star anise

I lightly crushed the cardamom pods with my suribachi (Japanese style mortar and pestle), so that the small black seeds inside weren’t exposed and could release their wonderful sweet and spicy flavor into the tea.

Lightly crush the green cardamom pods with a mortar and pestle

I put some mugicha in a small pot with all of the spices, brought it to a boil, then turned off the heat and let the tea steep for 15 minutes.

Bring spices and mugicha to a boil over medium heat

Then I stirred in some honey, my sweetener of choice (and perfect for a sore throat!), and then poured the tea through a fine mesh strainer into a tea pot to strain out the spices.

Strain the mugi-chai

Then I poured myself a cup and added some milk so that it would be nice and creamy, and curled up on the couch, enjoying the wonderful aromatic steam rising out of my tea cup.  The chai was delicious—flavorful without being overpowering, with wonderful spicy and floral notes delivered by the different spices, and a hint of roasted barley flavor peeking through.  A bit of Japan and India in a cup, plus a comforting reminder of Paris, one of my favorite places in the entire world.  I call that a good cup of tea!

Enjoying a cup of mugi-chai

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe


Makes 8 – 10 servings

2 cups mugicha (brewed extra dark)
1 (1 1/2-inch) piece cinnamon stick
5 green cardamom pods, lightly smashed
6 whole cloves
1/2 star anise
3 quarter-sized coins fresh ginger
2 teaspoons honey, or more to taste
whole milk, to taste

1. In a medium saucepan, mix together the mugicha, cinnamon stick, cardamom, cloves, star anise, and ginger together.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Turn the heat off and allow it to steep for 15 minutes.

2. Stir in the honey.  Strain into a tea pot for serving, or straight into tea cups.  Add milk to taste.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracy September 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm

What a wonderful and comforting tea! I hope it helps to speed along your recovery. :-)


RJ Flamingo September 20, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I love chai masala, and make it at home all the time. Now I have to look for the mugicha, because the combination sounds incredible!

Extra smooches to feel better soon!


Michael [KyotoFoodie] September 20, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Wow, chai made with mugi-cha? That actually sounds REALLY interesting! I think I would like to try your recipe. I have some roasted barley that I got from a friend, he grandfather grows it and roasts it himself. I will try it with that, it should be wonderful!


Michael [KyotoFoodie] September 20, 2010 at 6:10 pm

(and, thank you for the recipe!)


Amber September 20, 2010 at 6:25 pm

That sounds delicious! I agree that a nice cup of herbal teas will make ease any pain. Sorry about your throat, that sounds terrible!


Paula - bell'alimento September 20, 2010 at 7:26 pm

That looks incredibly soothing {& I’m totally coveting your tea pot, stunning!}


sally September 20, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Beautiful photos! I’m ready for a nice cup of tea after reading your post.


Daniel@CocinaSavant September 21, 2010 at 6:28 am

I am really glad I stumbled upon your sight. Beautiful pictures and a picture perfect tea for the cooling weather. Bravo.


Maya@Foodiva's Kitchen September 21, 2010 at 7:09 am

This Mugi Chai looks absolutely heartwarming, especially on a cold, rainy day! What a lovely recipe, I’m going to give this a try. Thanks for sharing this.


Heather (Heather's Dish) September 21, 2010 at 9:15 am

i was JUST thinking that i needed to try my hand at chai yesterday! thank goodness i read this today and am bookmarking ;)

the tea set is gorgeous too!


Barbara Bakes September 21, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Love the new header. I also love your beautiful tea pot. So glad you’re starting to feel better. I’m off to vote.


Sarah September 23, 2010 at 5:07 am

Glad to hear you’re feeling better – lots of heal fast vibes being sent your way!

I’ve been making chai of my own quite a bit recently, and have my own recipes to post very soon. But I had never thought of using mugi-cha! Since I can’t have caffeine after a certain time of day I love the idea!


damaris September 25, 2010 at 10:05 am

Thanks for sharing the recipe Rachel! I am a huge fan of tea. Your pictures are looking more and more awesome with each new post.


wendy September 25, 2010 at 10:09 am

I made this, and I love it.
Am smitten.

Thank you so much for brightening my universe :)

(now I just need to find a use for roasted cooked barley… salad, maybe?)


Jean at The Delightful Repast September 26, 2010 at 12:41 pm

There’s no beverage quite so comforting as a nice cup of tea or herbal tisane. Of course, I favor black teas (the English thing) but sometimes enjoy a nice herbal concoction. So glad this was soothing to your poor throat. I so hope doing the presentation yesterday didn’t set you back.


Jerilynn January 31, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I can not wait to try this recipe! I was wondering if you could me where you purchased your cast iron tea pot. It is so beautiful!


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