I’d never heard of oksusu-cha before, and simply chanced upon it in the new Korean grocery shop in Square 2 mall at Novena.
Close-up of the roasted barley grains.
Surfing the net, I’ve also just learnt that in Korea, it’s common to mix roasted barley (bori-cha; Japanese: mugicha) with roasted corn to make tea.
My Korean friend tells me that the packet says “Yu-Gi-Nong” (my rudimentary knowledge of hangul tells me that they are the biggest words in the centre of the packet), which can be written in Chinese characters as 有機農 – i.e. organic agriculture.
This website also lists the product I bought as organic, and states the health benefits of roasted corn tea as:
1) Fatigue relief.
2) Reduce high blood pressure.
3) Ease the stomach pain resulting from digestion
Apparently, Korean teas are very different from Chinese and Japanese teas because of the focus on medicinal benefits and the effects on qi. Here’s a page about different kinds of Korean teas. Here’s another article which explains that the establishment of Confucianism as the national religion in the Chosun Dynasty (1392-1910), and corresponding suppression of Buddhism, was the reason for the diminished popularity of camellia sinensis teas, because production of the latter was closely tied to Buddhist temples.
However, besides barley and corn, rice and wheat can also be used to make roasted grain teas, and you can roast them yourself at home. This article tells you how to do so, and also describes the health benefits associated with each type of roasted grain tea.
Roasted grain beverages are common not only in Korea, but also much closer to home. Our Indonesian domestic helper tells me that in her home village, to make the coffee last longer, they roast corn and rice, then grind it and mix it with the coffee and it has a lovely fragrance. No wonder she was so tickled to see the packet of Korean oksusu-cha when I brought it home.
Here are instructions how to brew the roasted corn tea:
A final word of warning: if brewed really strong, oksusucha can be a speedy laxative!