Popular in Asia, barley tea is a lesser-known tea variety in the Western world, but one that packs a punch when it comes to improving overall health. With a delightfully nutty flavor, this toasted tea is different from most traditional teas in that it is most often consumed cold.
Drinking barley tea can provide an array of amazing health benefits that range from preventing cancer to cleansing blood and boosting your immune system. Relax and refresh in the summer sun or warm winter afternoon and toast to good health with barley tea.
Barley tea is not a true tea like white tea, green tea or black tea, and does not contain any tea leaves. It is also not an herbal tea, but rather a tisane made using roasted grains. Barley tea is an infusion made from the roasted seeds of the barley plant. Barley is a staple whole grain used in a variety of foods and beverages, including beer, thanks to its high fiber content and mild taste. Barley tea is consumed most commonly as a cold, refreshing beverage by can also be prepared hot depending on your personal preference.
Barley tea is most commonly cultivated in Japan and Korea where it has become a wildly popular beverage in both summertime and winter. Barley tea is harvested in early summer and is generally brewed using roasted, unhulled barley seeds.
Barley tea bags gained popularity in Japan in the early 1980s and tea bags are now the norm for brewing. In Korea, barley tea is known as boricha, while it goes by the name mugicha in Japan and damai cha in China. It's so common in Korea that barley tea is often consumed as an alternative to water in restaurants.
Barley tea offers a mild flavor profile consisting of a toasty flavor with slightly bitter undertones. It is often described as nutty and light, but some blends in Korea contain roasted corn, which increases the sweetness of the barley tea. Barley tea is naturally caffeine-free and emits a golden color similar to honey.
Barley tea contains a wide range of vitamins, nutrients and biological compounds that are credited for positive health benefits. Barley tea contains vitamins A and C along with antioxidants that help to eliminate free radicals and amino acids and melatonin that aid overall health.
Barley tea is a natural antacid that helps to relieve the painful symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux disease. Barley grains contain high levels of fiber, which help to reduce constipation and increase healthy bowel movements (1). The antioxidants in barley tea can help to relieve stomach cramps and nausea. For the best digestive results, drink a cup of barley tea 30 minutes before each meal.
Barley tea contains large amounts of vitamin C that can help protect your immune system from diseases and shorten the duration of the common cold and flu. Vitamin C helps to increase the production of white blood cells, which makes it easier for your body to fight infections (2).
Barley tea also contains antioxidants that eliminate free radicals that can cause cell death, which leads to premature aging and serious illness such as cancer. In a study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, researchers found five phenolic compounds in barley tea including quercetin, which prevents oxidation that causes cell death. These phenols work specifically to destroy peroxynitrite, which has been tied to both cardiovascular and neurological diseases (3).
Drinking barley tea regularly can help improve blood fluidity and prevent serious cardiovascular illnesses such as blood clots and heart attacks. In a study published by the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, scientists found that drinking high concentrations of barley tea in doses of 250 milliliters resulted in increased blood flow. Blood fluidity was measured using a microchannel analyzer and found that the passage time of whole blood decreased with the consumption of barley tea (4).
The positive blood benefits of barley tea can be attributed to the presence of the flavonoid alkylpyrazine. Since blood can more easily flow through arteries and veins, the risk of blood clots decreases when consuming barley tea on a regular basis. Clots and clogged arteries can also lead to heart attacks and heart disease, which can be mitigated by better blood circulation.
Barley tea contains antioxidants and polyphenols that can prevent teeth from decaying. These powerful compounds also help to protect teeth from plaque build-up that can lead to cavities.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that beverages made from roasted barley had antiadhesive properties that can protect against plaque and prevent tooth decay. The study used ceramic beads to mimic tooth enamel and applied oral streptococci to the surface to study bacteria growth. The ceramic beads treated with a coating of roasted barley showed lower rates of bacteria growth (5).
The study attributed the positive antibacterial properties to the antioxidant melanoidin and other polyphenols found in roasted barley grains. It's important to note that the study did not find these antioxidants in unroasted barley grains, so it seems the tooth decay-fighting powers of barley tea come from the roasting process of the seeds.
Barley tea contains several compounds including melatonin and tryptophan that can help you sleep better. These compounds trigger neurotransmitters in your brain that help you relax and feel sleepy.
One study found that barley powder made from the leaves and stems of barley seedlings contained 6.5 times more GABA than rice. GABA is an amino acid that works as a inhibitory neurotransmitter to help you achieve more peaceful sleep. Common anti-anxiety and insomnia medications such as Xanax and Valium work to increase GABA, making barley tea a healthy alternative to these powerful medications without the serious side effects (6).
Barley tea also contains melatonin, another key ingredient for a restful night's sleep. Melatonin works to regulate the body's internal clock by regulating sleep cycles. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in your body and is triggered once the sun goes down. Higher levels of melatonin lead to increased sleepiness and calm, which can help if you suffer from insomnia or restless sleep (7).
Barley tea is a naturally low calorie drink that can be a delicious alternative to plain water. It's a great replacement for sugary drinks that can pack on the pounds; just make sure to limit the sweeteners. Barley tea's low sugar content means diabetics can consume this tea without the worry of skyrocketing blood sugar levels.
The high fiber content of barley tea makes you feel full longer so you won't have the urge to snack and consume unnecessary calories. Antioxidants in barley tea can boost your metabolism and help promote weight loss by reducing overeating.
Barley grains contain high amounts of selenium, a mineral that has been linked to fertility in men. In a study published by the international Journal of General Medicine, researchers found that regular consumption of selenium increased fertility in men who had been infertile for one year or longer (8).
The study analyzed 690 infertile men who were given a combination of selenium and vitamin E for 100 days. Fifty-two percent of participants experienced total improvement in sperm motility and 10 percent provided spontaneous pregnancies compared to those who did not receive any selenium.
While more studies are needed, there is hope that drinking barley tea can aid in fertility. To get these health benefits, you'll need to consume barley tea on a regular basis
Unlike the dangerous side effects associated with barley water made from flour, barley tea is a mild tea that has few side effects when consumed in moderate quantities. However, there are still a few precautions when it comes to consuming barley grains in tea.
If you suffer from Celiac disease, have gluten sensitivity or are allergic to grains, it's best to avoid barley tea. Some blends of barley tea also contain corn, so if you have an allergy to corn it’s a good idea to avoid drinking barley tea.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is also best to avoid barley tea since it can prevent lactation and cause complications. Make sure to check with your doctor before consuming barley tea when pregnant or taking other medications.
The easiest way to make a delectable cup of barley tea is to purchase barley tea bags or roasted barley seeds that are ready to brew. Barley tea bags can be purchased at most grocery stores while barley seeds can be found at health food stores, tea shops and Asian markets.
If you have roasted barley seeds or a tea bag, you can skip to the next step for brewing. Barley tea can be made at home from scratch using unroasted barley seeds. Start by roasting the barley seeds in the oven or on the stove top without using any oil. The grains are ready for brewing once they turn slightly brown. Once roasted, you can follow the general guidelines below for brewing.
As with most tea brewing techniques, it's best to use filtered or spring water to get the most flavor out of your teas. Avoid distilled water, which tastes bland, and tap water, which contains chemicals that create bitter flavors. While barley tea is typically consumed cold, it is best to brew using hot water to elicit the flavor and aroma profiles.
Rinse the barley seeds with cold water and pour into a large pot using a strainer. Aim to use 2 tablespoons of roasted barley for every 8 cups of water. Bring water and roasted barley seeds to a rolling boil and simmer for 20 minutes at medium heat.
Strain the roasted barley tea into a pitcher using a strainer, sieve or piece of cheesecloth. Allow the barley tea to cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator. Serve cold as is or add a few ice cubes if desired.
Barley tea can be sweetened using lemon, honey or sugar. You can also add spices like cardamom and cinnamon to add enticing flavors to your barley tea.
Roasted barley tea is popular in Korea and Japan as a summertime beverage to help you unwind and revitalize your health. The roasted barley grains effuse a toasty, nutty flavor that is mild yet exquisite. While not a cure for serious diseases, drinking barley tea can help improve your digestive system, increase weight loss and protect your immune system from colds and flus. Settle in and enjoy a refreshing afternoon with a chilled glass of barley tea that is rich in antioxidants and chock full of flavor.