Korean Teas for Colds and Flu

It’s cold season, people! Most of us over here are healthy (knock, knock, knock), although Kevin has been struggling with tonsillitis for a week now.  Poor guy, it’s just not going away.

Last year was a different story.  We were sick ALL winter.  For a family that didn’t go to the doctor much in the States, we spent a lot of time in the waiting room at the pediatrician here.  Blech.  Not my cup of tea for multiple reasons.

Oops, I made a punny.  (Sorry, that was a terrible joke on top of a terrible pun.  Can you ever forgive me?)

Koreans have some unique teas that we enjoy during cold season.  The first is bori cha (cha means tea).  It is made of roasted barely seeds.  It has a nutty, earthy flavor to it, and can be found at any market here.  They even have a “baby” version, although it seems to be a marketing ploy, as it appears to be identical to the adult version.

The kids like bori cha alright, although I have to sweeten it with honey for them.  I like it as is, but I’ve always enjoyed unsweetened tea.  It is served year round in Korea, hot in the winter and cold in the summer.  It claims to be good for digestion, and is supposed to break up cold congestion.  I must confess that I never found it to have dramatic results, but it is a comforting drink when you’re under the weather.
If “mild and comforting, nutty and earthy” sends you running for the hills, there is another tea option.  Yuja cha is a honey citron tea that is also ubiquitous in Korean markets.  I’ve never seen any other “tea” like it, though.

It’s marmalade, people!  Ok, maybe not marmalade exactly, but very very similar.  It is made of citron, and honey!  It has the rind and actual fruit in it!  One or two tablespoons in some hot water and you have a yummy drink.  It is remarkably soothing and -did I mention?- delicious.

According to our Korean connections, yuja cha is good for preventing colds (vitamin C?) and for treating colds (citrus and honey!).  Before you ask, I most certainly do eat the rind and fruit left at the bottom of the mug.  You know.  For extra vitamin C and stuff.  (wink wink)

So whether you prefer nutty or sweet, get thee to thy local Korean market (find one in the U.S. here) and buy yourself an inexpensive soothing drink. Or if you are more of a DIY-er, try out these recipes: bori cha and yuja chaYour body will thank you!

Do you know of other teas or remedies for colds, Korean or otherwise?  Post them in the comments box.  I’m always on the lookout for natural-ish remedies.

One last suggestion: The best cold remedy I know of is homemade chicken broth.  You can find my recipe here.  Have a healthy January!


  1. i love barley tea. the kids love it cold (since it’s the only other beverage they can have other than water at home). they don’t care for it warm. i only like it warm at restaurants. i should try the yuja tea again. i have it in my cupboard. got it last year and didn’t care for it. but you make it sound so good. we do chicken soup, lemon ginger and honey tea, and bean sprout soup (suppose to be good for colds). made some tonight. kids don’t like it much, it’s a bit bland, but super easy to make (ingredients: bean sprouts, garlic, green onions, salt. i add dried anchovies for flavor and some tofu. i also add some kimchi too). Micaela, have you tried ginsang tea – it totally warms you up inside. it’s weird. it produces this internal heat. anyhoo, hope you guys have a healthy winter.

    • I’ve had that soup at restaurants. Yes, kind of bland, but I like it. Maybe I will try making it with chicken broth!

      Is ginsang the same as ginseng? I will look for it at the market next door. There is a whole aisle full of teas!

  2. oh yes, it’s spelled ginseng. haha. it’s not really for colds but it keeps you warm. not sure what the benefits are.

    dried pollock soup is good for colds too. here’s the recipe. i love this lady’s website.

  3. Love love love barley tea. I prefer it hot. Roasted brown rice/green tea has a similar flavor (genmaicha), and my kids love it plain. I don’t really like many cold drinks except for sparkling water. I’d drink all my beverages room temperature or warmer if I could.

    For colds I make cinnamon, lemon, honey tea. Steep a scoop of ground cinnamon in boiling water for a few minutes, add half a lemon and honey to taste. The cinnamon numbs the throat, and you know why the honey and lemon are good. =) Sometimes, instead of the honey, I use elderberry syrup (sambucus–an antiviral) to sweeten–then sip all day.

    • I also prefer room temp water. Kevin thinks I’m nuts. He wishes ice was a liquid.

      I never thought about the cinnamon! I use cinnamon for other things, but have never put it in my cold remedy tea. Trying that one for sure. I had also completely forgotten about sambucus. I used to make that syrup every year, but since being away from Frontier (boohoo) I haven’t had easy access to them. Out of sight, out of mind.

  4. The above site isn’t my website, however, I had to enter something. So I put in the site of my favorite citron tea. Hope that’s okay. 🙂

    I’m Korean/American so I grew up drinking this tea citron tea to ‘cure’ every illness which was on, near or around me. My mother forced it on us so as an adult, I wouldn’t go near it. However, recently I have been drinking the organic version of the tea and besides bringing back a rush of memories of my childhood and my mother, I have once again grown to absolutely love this tea. It’s just all around yummy!

    Thanks for the blog. I agree 100%! 🙂
    Jin Lee Simms recently posted…Why I love Korean Citron Tea – Take It from an Addicted DrinkerMy Profile

  5. I was an English teacher in Seoul for several years just after college so I love searching blogs. articles and stories about other people’s experiences in Korea. It is really an amazing place with some of the nicest people and best food and drink in the world. Yujacha (Korean citron tea) is by far one of the treats I cannot live without since moving back to the US. There are many places to buy it online, however, I buy it from a company called General Mings (I added their website) because it is USDA organic. It is more expensive but in my opinion the quality is sooooo much better! 🙂 I wish I had a coupon code (hint, hint)

    I’m glad I came across your site. Look forward to reading more of your adventures. Cheers. Jennifer
    Jennifer recently posted…Yuja Cha or Korean Citron Tea – a Solution to the Winter Blues!My Profile