Barley Tea Benefits and Side Effects

Learn to Make Korean Barley Tea at Home

Barley tea seeds in spoon

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Barley tea is a popular drink in Korea, Japan, and China that is widely believed to provide health benefits including weight loss, blood sugar regulation, relief from digestive problems and even improving male fertility. Unfortunately, not a lot of scientific evidence exists to support these claims.

What Is Barley Tea?

Barley tea—also known as Korean barley tea or roasted barley tea—is a popular hot and cold drink in Asia. In Korea, the drink is called boricha (bori meaning barley and cha meaning tea). In Japan, the drink is called mugicha and in China, the drink is called damai cha or mai cha.

The primary ingredient in barley tea is (of course) roasted barley. Barley is a whole grain that is grown around the world. Barley is popular with healthy eaters because of its high fiber content and mild taste. The grain is easy to use in recipes and is used to manufacture bread, cereal, and is also fermented and used in the production of some alcoholic drinks such as beer and distilled beverages.

The flavor of barley tea is often described as light and nutty. However, some Korean tea makers include roasted corn in their recipe to boost sweetness. When corn is added, the tea is called oksusu bori cha.

How to Make Barley Tea

The easiest way to make barley tea at home is to purchase barley tea bags or prepared roasted (ready to brew) barley online or in the store. Some Asian markets and health food stores will carry the product. 

If you choose to make barley tea from scratch, you'll begin by roasting barley. You can roast barley on the stove top in a pan (without oil) or in a preheated oven. Roast the grain until it is lightly brown but not too dark. 

To prepare barley tea:

  • Add about two tablespoons of the roasted barley to a medium pot (eight cups) of water and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for 15 to 20 minutes depending on your taste. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Reheat the barley tea to serve as a warm tea drink or refrigerate the barley water and serve cold. 
  • Some tea drinkers add a small amount of lemon or sweetener (like honey or sugar) to the tea for added flavor. Spices such as cardamom can also be added to the hot or cold beverage. 

Does Barley Tea Contain Caffeine?

Barley tea is not a "tea" in the traditional sense and is not made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, like black tea or green tea. It is brewed just from barley, which does not contain any caffeine. Therefore barley tea is completely caffeine-free.

Purported Barley Tea Health Benefits

Anecdotal reports of barley tea benefits are endless. The tea has been credited with:

  • Stomach pain relief
  • Reducing sleep disturbances and other sleep-related problems
  • Reducing constipation
  • Boosting prostate health and improving male fertility
  • Curing the common cold
  • Preventing tooth decay
  • Acting as a blood thinner
  • Improving weight loss 
  • Reduced cholesterol

There has been very little research done on barley tea that supports these health claims. Additionally, many of the benefits listed (especially those related to digestive health and weight loss) are based on the health benefits of barley as a whole grain.

Barley is full of fiber and can improve regularity and help dieters to feel full longer and eat less. But those benefits of ingesting fiber come from eating the whole grains of barley, not when you drink barley tea.

Barley Tea Side Effects

Barley tea is most likely safe when consumed by most people and used appropriately. If you have an allergy to cereal grains, celiac disease, or sensitivity to gluten you may want to avoid any product with barley.

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View Article Sources
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