If you’re looking for a delicious, healthy alternative to a cup of coffee, then roasted barley tea may be the perfect option for you.
Roasted barley tea, known as boricha in Korea, mugicha in Japan and maicha in China, is known for its smoky scent and rich taste.
The herbal tea has been used for centuries in Asia and has been recognized for its many health benefits, including its antioxidant capabilities and its ability to improve circulation, cardiovascular function, and digestion.
If you haven’t experienced roasted barley tea, it’s something worth considering. This is especially true if you’re trying to kick a caffeine habit. Unlike coffee and some teas, this herbal option is caffeine-free. It can be used throughout the day—with meals—or in the evening to improve your mood.
Health Benefits of Barley Tea
Barley tea can have a number of health benefits that are both short and long term. It can lower one’s risk of catching a cold, for example, while its antioxidant and circulatory benefits can help reduce the risk of infection, inflammation, heart disease and obesity.
I’m going to stop short of saying it can cure cancer, as many other proponents of barley tea tend to do, but I will say that its antioxidant capabilities are beneficial. Antioxidants help protect your cells from damage, thereby working to limit mutations. Let’s take a look at the benefits of barley tea in a bit more detail:
1. Antibacterial Properties
Barley tea can help limit the likelihood of a viral infection by interfering with the ability of bacteria to colonize and infiltrate your mouth. Drinking a few cups of barley tea throughout each day (or at least one in the evening) can help keep your mouth clean of intruders.
2. Improves Blood Circulation
Studies have shown that barley tea can improve blood circulation, therefore lowering the risk of heart disease or other cardiovascular events like heart attack or stroke.
One recent study reveals how people who drank 8.5 ounces of barley tea per day experienced improved blood circulation—more so than those who only drank water. When it comes to heart health, every option should be explored!
3. Antioxidant Benefits
Roasted barley tea provides yet another source of valuable antioxidants than can provide health benefits. These benefits often go unseen, but they do some of the most important work when it comes to your overall health. Antioxidants help fight inflammation, disease, and maintain the integrity of all the cells throughout your body.
Barley tea has been found effective in neutralizing the oxidative effects of peroxynitrite. Peroxynitrite can lead to cell death that causes complications involving cardiovascular, inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases—and barley tea features 10 chemicals that have shown to battle its effects.
4. Low in Calories
What makes this tasty tea such a delight is that you can add it to your daily diet without really adding any calories. One eight-ounce cup of barley tea only has about two calories, so even if you have a few cups a day, it won’t add up to anything substantial.
This can be a great alternative for people who enjoy specialty coffees that are loaded with fat and sugar, which can contribute to weight gain and other potential metabolic problems.
For example, a 16-ounce grande size pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks contains 380 calories. About 120 of those calories are supplied by its 14 grams of fat (eight of which are saturated) and 208 come from sugar, 200 of which are supplied by its 50 grams of added sugar.
At a difference of 376 calories, you can see why barley tea might be the better option! And if you want it sweetened, just add some natural stevia. Milk doesn’t go so well with barley tea, so you can save some calories there, too.
5. No Added Sugar
One of the biggest benefits of choosing barley tea—or any herbal option over specialty coffees, sodas or fruit juice—is that there is no added sugar. Added sugar is a major culprit for many of the diseases currently facing America and the rest of the word. It is a leading cause of the global obesity epidemic, type-2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
Dietary guidelines say men should cap their daily sugar intake at eight teaspoons per day and women should go no higher than six, but the reality is that most Americans consume many times that amount.
Beverages are a huge contributor to the elevated sugar intake and barley tea can eliminate the added sugars. If you do need a little sweetener, use stevia or another sugar-free sweetener.
According to anecdotal evidence, one of the main reasons barley tea is so popular in Korea is that it helps with digestion. Consuming barley tea with meals, according to some studies, may help with absorption and settling the stomach.
7. A Healthy Snack
You can buy your own barley grains to roast, or buy pre-roasted grains to put into your tea. Once your tea is brewed, you can take them out, let them cool slightly and then eat them. Whole grains are a good source of fiber. Fiber is a heart healthy dietary component that can lower cholesterol, promote healthy gut bacteria and lower the risk of heart disease.
8. Can Help You Sleep
A warm beverage on a cool night is a welcome addition in most households, and a caffeine-free option is usually the best option to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Although barley tea may contain trace amounts of the amino acid tryptophan and the chemical melatonin—both helpful in promoting sleep—the biggest barley tea “bedtime benefit” is its lack of caffeine.
Consuming caffeine within a handful of hours before bedtime, sometimes up to six or eight hours, can keep you up at night and make it difficult to sleep. This is one of the reasons America, as a nation, is largely overtired. Herbal teas like barley tea are warm and tasty beverages that won’t keep you awake.
9. Helps Thin Your Blood
There is some evidence to suggest barley tea works as an anticoagulant, which means it works to make blood more fluid. When blood is viscous it has a more difficult time circulating through your body, which causes you to work harder and may increase the risk of heart disease.
Ways to Prepare Barley Tea
Barley tea can be drunk hot or cold. You can choose to buy your own barley grains and roast them yourself, purchase pre-roasted grains, or purchase prepared tea bags. And although you can make barley tea in individual glasses, sometimes brewing a pitcher is the easiest and most efficient way.
Add two to three tablespoons of roasted barley grains to four cups of boiling water. Let the grains simmer for five to ten minutes (steep according to taste—the longer they simmer, the stronger the flavor), and strain the kernels out of the liquid. As mentioned before, you can eat the kernels for a nutritious snack once they’ve cooled. Pour into glasses and serve!
If you want to drink barley tea as a cold beverage, simply put it in the fridge after you’ve brewed it.
You can make it sweeter by including some no calorie sweeteners, but its unique flavors are probably best enjoyed with minimal tampering. Milk won’t do anything for its flavor, so I’d suggest avoiding it altogether!
To roast your own barley kernels, use your oven or stove top to give them a dark brown color. If you like you can grind the kernels in a pepper mill. It should be noted, however, that buying and roasting barley kernels in bulk is not recommended because they don’t have a particularly long shelf life!
Barley tea can be a nutritious additive to a healthy, preventative diet. Its potential benefits for heart health, circulation, treating inflammation and digestion are promising. It is definitely something worth sipping during the winter and fall months.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Papetti, A., et al., “Effect of Barley Coffee on the Adhesive Properties of Oral Streptococci,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2007; 55 (2), pp 278–284; doi: 10.1021/jf062090i.
Etoh, H., et al., “Anti-oxidative compounds in barley tea,” Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 2004; 68(12):2616-8.
Dannie, M., “The Health Benefits of Roasted Barley Tea,” SF Gate web site, http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/health-benefits-roasted-barley-tea-12121.html, last accessed October 19, 2015.