Discover Mugicha, a typical summer drink in Japan

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

2020-09-16   Food & Drinks, Traditions & History,



Green tea
Green tea

# What are the differences between mugicha and other teas?

Mugicha is brown, whereas green tea is 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.

Tea is made from the leaves of a tea plat. There are 2 kinds of tea leaves, leaves from plants cultivated in Japan and China, and 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 color, taste, and type, vary depending on the fermentation of the leaves.

Mugicha (barley tea), on the other hand,  is made by roasting barley seeds, which gives it a mild and refreshing flavor.


From parched-barley tea to barley tea. The change to 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 a 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 arrived in the middle 1950’s, mugicha became established as summer drink because barley is harvested during the summer. It then came to be called, Mugicha (barley tea) in 1965.


The effects of Mugicha: Why we should drink it during summer.

Japanese people are very careful about what they drink and eat during the summer. Eating one umeboshi a day, for example, is said to keep you healthy during summer.

Barley has a cooling effect on the body. Drinking large amounts of water when you are extremely hot or exhausted can be dangerous. Drinking mugicha will replenish the body of deprived nutrients. It also protects the mucous membrane of the stomach, prevents lifestyle-related diseases, prevents tooth decay, and stimulates blood circulation.


Unlike teas and coffee, mugicha is caffeine-free, so its good for children and women who are pregnant.

Barley tea sold in vending machines
Barley tea sold in vending machines

What about giving it a try?

Mugicha used to be an expensive drink but it is much cheaper now.  During summer, you can easily and we can buy a bottle of cold mugicha at vending machines, convenience stores, and supermarkets.  Just look for these kanji: 麦茶. Can you find the mugicha bottle on the picture above?

You can also buy a tea-like bag for brewing cold or hot mugicha. If you brew your own mugicha, make sure you finish it within two days, even when keep it refrigerated, because bacteria can quickly proliferate from the barley!

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Writer/ Translator

I love Japanese folkcraft article, traditional handicrafts and antiques. I’m seeking the Japanese people’s religious outlooks and its origins that are behind Japanese people’s unique sense and techniques rooted in the ordinary life.