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“Etoh, Hideo, Kazushi Murakami, Tokiyasu Yogoh, Hajime Ishikawa, Yoshiyasu Fukuyama, and Hitoshi Tanaka. “Anti-oxidative compounds in barley tea.” Bioscience, biotechnology, and biochemistry 68, no. 12 (2004): 2616-2618.”
With its toasty, mildly bitter, and nutty flavor as well as therapeutic benefits, barley tea is becoming increasingly popular in hipster coffee shops and households alike. So let’s take a closer look at this drink that’s being hailed as the next big thing in the beverage world.
What Is Barley Tea?
Barley tea is a herbal infusion made from whole barley kernels which are roasted until dark brown and then boiled and steeped in hot water to release flavor. Slowly simmering the barley kernels gives this beverage a distinct flavor which can take some getting used to. Barley tea is known as mugicha in Japanese, dàmàichá in Chinese, and boricha in Korean. It is a very popular drink across east Asia where it is widely consumed piping hot in the winter and iced in the summer. Barley tea is rich in antioxidants and amino acids and has a host of health benefits.[ref]Etoh, Hideo, Kazushi Murakami, Tokiyasu Yogoh, Hajime Ishikawa, Yoshiyasu Fukuyama, and Hitoshi Tanaka. “Anti-oxidative compounds in barley tea.” Bioscience, biotechnology, and biochemistry 68, no. 12 (2004): 2616-2618.[ref] [ref]2-Row Barley. The University of Arizona.[/ref]
Health Benefits Of Barley Tea
Barley tea is an excellent nutritional supplement due to the many health benefits it offers. In Asian cultures, barley tea has been used since the 8th century for its numerous therapeutic properties. Here’s a look at how barley tea can help you.
1. Has Antibacterial Properties
Polyphenols present in barley extracts can reduce the adhesion of bacteria to various parts of your body, thus preventing bacterial infections. Most commonly, barley tea is known to guard against urinary tract infections and tooth decay.[ref]Ferrazzano, Gianmaria F., Ivana Amato, Aniello Ingenito, Armando Zarrelli, Gabriele Pinto, and Antonino Pollio. “Plant polyphenols and their anti-cariogenic properties: a review.” Molecules 16, no. 2 (2011): 1486-1507.[/ref] [ref]Lolayekar, Nikita, and Chaitanya Shanbhag. “Polyphenols and oral health.” RSBO (Online) 9, no. 1 (2012): 74-84.[/ref]
2. Offers Antioxidant Benefits
Barley has phytonutrients called lignans that combat free radicals in your body. It, hence, minimizes cellular damage brought about by natural oxidation processes in your body.[ref]Lignans. Oregon State University.[/ref]
3. Helps You Relax, De-Stress, And Sleep
Tryptophan, an amino acid found in barley tea, can aid in relaxation and in getting better sleep. Tryptophan helps the body synthesize serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep.[ref]Eat Right, Drink Well, Stress Less: Stress-Reducing Foods, Herbal Supplements, and Teas. UCLA Center for East-West Medicine.[/ref]
4. Protects Against Cancer
Barley tea contains phytochemicals known as procyanidins that are known to prevent cancerous and other abnormal activity in cells.[ref]News In Brief. UC Davis Cancer Center.[/ref] According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, phytochemicals present in plants can prevent the things we eat and drink from becoming carcinogenic and even lower the type of inflammation in the body and oxidative damage that promotes cancerous cell growth.[ref]Phytochemicals: The Cancer Fighters in the Foods We Eat. American Institute for Cancer Research.[/ref]
5. Regulates Blood Pressure And Blood Sugar Levels
Barley is a good source of dietary magnesium.[ref]Magnesium. University of Washington.[/ref] Magnesium is helps regulate blood sugar (thus protecting against type II diabetes) and reduces the risk of developing high blood pressure.[ref]Magnesium. University of Maryland Medical Center.[/ref] Consuming barley tea regularly can therefore help manage hypertension. Other benefits of dietary magnesium include relieving premenstrual symptoms, reducing migraine, and helping with asthma, anxiety, and depression.[ref]The Benefits of Magnesium. University of Kansas Medical Center.[/ref]
6. Has Anticoagulant Properties
Chemical compounds called alkylpyrazines present in barley tea can promote better blood circulation. Poor blood circulation in the body can lead to the formation of dangerous blood clots that can block blood vessels and even cause heart attacks and strokes.[ref]Anticoagulants. Johns Hopkins University.[/ref]
In fact, a study found that barley tea was even more effective than water in keeping your circulatory system healthy.[ref]Suganuma, Hiroyuki, Takahiro Inakuma, and Yuji Kikuchi. “Amelioratory effect of barley tea drinking on blood fluidity.” Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology 48, no. 2 (2002): 165-168.[/ref]
7. Helps Beat Colds
When you feel a cold coming, brew yourself a steaming cup of barley tea. Add a dash of cinnamon and honey for added benefits, and sip through the day to stave off the cold. Even in the midst of a full-blown cold, barley tea can be incredibly comforting to drink due to its smoky aroma. It can also relieve respiratory congestion and a sore throat.[ref]Navarra, Tova. Library of Health and Living: Encyclopedia of Asthma and Respiratory Disorders. Infobase Publishing, 2002.[/ref]
8. Helps You Detox And Cleanse
Many detox and cleansing diets today include barley-based drinks (including tea) as an effective cleansing and purifying agent. Where is this coming from? Well, in Asian cultures, people have been using barley tea for hundreds of years to cleanse the body and improve digestive health. Drinking barley tea can resolve moderate constipation and also serve as a natural antacid after a particularly heavy meal. Although these claims have not been empirically proven, they are backed by hundreds of years of tradition!
How To Brew Barley Tea
Barely tea is rather versatile in that it can be brewed both hot and cold depending on how you like it.
To make hot brewed barley tea, first roast whole barley kernels in a pan until they are dark brown in color. You can also buy roasted ready-to-brew barley tea in most Asian grocery stores or online.
- Bring a pot of water to boil and add the roasted barley grains.
- You’d want to use about 2–3 tbsp of loose barley grain per quart of water for optimal taste.
- Lower the heat and let simmer for about 3–4 minutes.
- Then, turn off the heat and allow the infusion cool to room temperature before straining it into a glass pitcher. Chill overnight in the fridge for best results.
The cold-brew method involves a little less effort. To cold brew your barley tea, use barley tea bags specially designed for cold brewing.
- Put 1–2 teabags in a pitcher of cold water and leave overnight in the fridge.
- You’ll wake up to cold-brewed barley tea which usually looks a little lighter in color than hot brewed tea but is equally refreshing.
Barley Tea Storage
Since barley tea is made from whole grain barley kernels, it does not retain its freshness as long as other herbal teas once you’ve opened the product packaging. Barley tea is best stored in plastic or glass airtight containers for short-term use. You can freeze loose barley tea for long-term use, but it’s better to simply buy it in small quantities. This way, you can consume it quickly while it retains its natural freshness and therapeutic properties.
Things To Note About Barley Tea
- Barley tea contains gluten so it is not recommended for those with a gluten allergy or those on a gluten-free diet.
- Barley tea is naturally caffeine-free so it’s a beverage that children and the elderly can safely consume.
- Consuming too much barley tea can lead to abdominal bloating, flatulence, and cramps. So don’t go overboard! A cup or two daily is safe to drink, but always check with your healthcare provider when in doubt.
- Barley tea has a naturally toasty, smoky aroma and is also mildly bitter. Feel free to add low-cal sweeteners to barley tea if you prefer a slightly sweeter flavor.
There’s Barley Coffee Too?
Yup, although it’s rather different from barley tea which is lighter on your system. You may have heard of Caffè d’orzo (aka orzo coffee or barley coffee) which is a popular drink in Italy. Orzo means barley in Italian, and it is used widely as a caffeine-free coffee substitute. Unlike barley tea, barley coffee is usually made from finely ground orzo which can be brewed in regular coffee makers including French Press coffee makers. But you get all the benefits of barley in barley coffee too.
More importantly, the extraction can be consumed just like regular black coffee or used to make milk-based drinks like lattes that even kids can enjoy. Since it is naturally caffeine-free, barley coffee does not taste as full-bodied or rich in texture as regular coffee. But don’t let this deter you from trying it. It’s still an incredibly popular and healthy beverage in many parts of the world. In fact, barley coffee is a great alternative for those trying to cut back on caffeine or looking to kick their coffee habit altogether.