Mugicha, the Lesser-Known Japanese Tea

Amélie Geeraert
Kokoro Media
Published in
3 min readFeb 13, 2024

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Cold mugicha (barley tea) is a drink that is popular in Japan, especially in summer, or after taking a bath or exercising. How is it different from green tea and what are its effects?

What Are the Differences Between Mugicha and Other Teas?

Mugicha is golden brown, whereas green tea is… well, green.
There are other brown teas such as roasted tea, oolong tea, and black tea, all of which Japanese people drink regularly but mugicha tea is completely different.

Regular tea is made from the leaves of a tea plant. There are two kinds of tea leaves: leaves from plants cultivated in Japan and China, and leaves from the Assam tea plant found in the Assam region of India.
Green tea, oolong tea, roasted tea, and black tea are made from the leaves of the tea plant. The tea’s color, taste, and type vary depending on the fermentation of the leaves.

Mugicha (barley tea), on the other hand, actually contains no tea at all! It is made by roasting barley seeds, which gives it a mild and refreshing flavor.

The Origins of Mugicha and How It Became a Summer Drink

The origins of mugicha date from the Heian era (794–1185), when people drank parched barley flour and sugar dissolved in hot water.
During the Japanese civil war era, military commanders would drink it. They drank it not only as tea using hot water, but also as an alcoholic beverage (mixed with alcohol), like unrefined sake.

Parched-barley became popular among the common class of people during the late Edo period (1603–1868) and parched-barley tea shops started to open. They replaced cafés that served coffee during the Meiji era (1868–1912) and parched-barley tea was also more commonly enjoyed at home. It was still referred to as “parched-barley tea.”

After refrigeration appeared in the middle 1950s, mugicha became established as a summer drink because barley is harvested during the summer. It got its final name of “mugicha” in…

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Amélie Geeraert
Kokoro Media

Living in Japan since 2011. I love interviewing inspiring people.