This is a cold time of the year where I live. Sometimes I’m reminded of the time I spent in Korea many years ago, and of the great food I used to eat there.
I like to haunt Asian food stores every now and then, to take me back to the old days.
One drink that I associate with cold weather is Korean roasted corn tea (oksusu cha) and roasted barley tea (bori cha). It was served automatically at nearly every restaurant you went into. You’d sit down, and there was a mug of oksusu cha or bori cha put in front of you. It was just understood.
After a while, you get really attached to this stuff. I drank it nearly every single day.
Sometimes it was served hot, sometimes cold. Sometimes the ajumas (matrons) who ran these restaurants would mix the grains together, so that you’d get a hint of both. I was told that the sweetness of the corn would moderate the sharpness of the barley.
You may never had heard of these drinks. They are simple, but memorable. And I think they do have definite health benefits. There must be B vitamins and other nutrients released in the boiling process.
It’s also a great drink to take on trips out to the field (hiking, hunting, etc.). I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with the rustic, rugged flavor of these teas.
Let’s start with roasted barley tea (bori cha). You can find this product at pretty much any well-stocked Asian food store.
Here’s what it looks like when you buy it:
It’s just a roasted grain. To prepare the tea, all you have to do is boil the roasted grain in as much water as you want. For the roasted corn tea, you should aim for a pale yellow color. Barley tea will be a bit darker. (The boiled grains are discarded).
And that’s pretty much it. I never add anything to it. But I suppose you could if you wanted to.
Here is what oksusu cha looks like:
Of course, you’re not going to get your caffeine fix with these drinks. But so what? There are health benefits with these teas made from roasted grains.
Anytime you boil grains, you are releasing the good things stored inside the grain itself. We are told that these teas help prevent tooth decay, and lower blood viscosity.
Regardless, drinking these teas will add some variety to your cold-weather routine.