U.S.'s first barley tea shipped out of Madison warehouse
Brewed naturally with organic herbs and spices and bottled at peak freshness, INAKA is the first roasted grain tea in North America and is being distributed out of a warehouse in Madison County, but it’s not your regular cup of tea.
Roasted grain teas have long been consumed across the world, and the family company based out of Jackson says they were born to share this tradition with everyone.
INAKA tea is inspired by a traditional tea known as mugicha in Japanese or boricha in Korean and damaicha in Chinese, and it is described as “the best drink you’ve probably never heard of,” by the makers of INAKA tea.
Chat Phillips, a former economic development consultant, said he first discovered barley tea while he was in college and studying abroad in Japan where he had his first sip of barley tea.
He said it was a hot and humid day and someone gave him a drink of what he thought was iced tea but was actually mugicha. He drank it and has been a fan of the drink ever since.
“I kept up my Japanese and would go back,” Phillips said. “The first thing I would buy was barley tea.”
Phillips said he would load up some to bring back but later started experimenting with roasting grains and brewing his own tea at home.
Mugicha is made by simmering barley that has been roasted until the grains take on a rich, nutty flavor.
Phillips said he finally found a combination he liked, got together with his wife, Stevie, and they decided to go into production in 2019. The operation was slowed some due to COVID-19 but has recently begun to pick up with 17 Kroger locations in the Southeast, including Madison County stores, now stocking INAKA tea on their shelves.
“We decided to go for it,” Chat said of the decision to start INAKA Tea Company. “We are the first company in the United States to brew barley tea.”
Barley tea is consumed either cold or room temperature. “We drink it over ice,” Stevie said.
They settled on the name INAKA, which means “Countryside” in Japanese, for the name of their tea company, Stevie said.
The barley tea is rich in antioxidants and vitamins A and C, which the Phillipses said help circulation which in turn helps you relax.
The couple, who lives in Jackson, said they had to outsource grain roasting to a grain roster in North Carolina and the brewing and bottling to a company in Dallas.
The bottled product, however, is shipped back to a warehouse in Madison near Sowell Road where they handle the day-to-day distribution.
In addition to being on Kroger shelves, INAKA Tea has also been on shelves of Corner Market Grocery stores in Hattiesburg and Jackson for several months.
INAKA Tea comes in three varieties, the original barley tea, and a mint and a ginger variety.
INAKA Tea also can be found in select coffee shops in the Jackson Metropolitan area.
INAKA Tea sells for $2.29 per bottle.