With the creamy, sweet disposition of a chai latte and the toasted, nutty flavor of oatmeal, there’s a comforting familiarity to Job’s tears tea. Though its primary ingredient is a teardrop-shaped grain named after a suffering biblical character, the misery ends there.
Job’s tears, or Coix lacryma-jobi, is a cereal plant that many Southeast Asian cultures mix into drinks, vinegar, savory dishes, and chilled dessert soups. Chinese herbalists also use it to reduce inflammation and congestion. Scientists have yet to examine the medicinal effects of the gluten-free grain, but it’s already gaining international popularity as a health food.
In Korea, the name yulmu-cha (Job’s tears tea) refers to a combination of powdered Job’s tears grains, walnuts, almonds, black beans, black sesame, corn, brown rice, and lots of sugar. Korean urbanites consider the high-protein tea a fixture in the world of instant drinks. Busy city slickers grab super-sweet, bottled versions from vending machines. One student remembers downing it at school, “to fill you up and scrape you off the academic ground.” Those who prefer hot tea at home simply add an instant mix to boiling milk or water. The crunch of chopped nuts and seeds resting at the bottom is reminiscent of a peanut-dipped ice cream cone.
While it may have a tragic name, this nutritious plant has a multitude of delicious applications. Any health benefits are a bonus.
Need to Know
You can buy Job's tears tea in instant powder form online. English translations typically feature the words “Job's tears” alongside a jumble of nuts and seeds, followed by the word “tea.” In South Korea, the drink is widely available everywhere from grocery stores to vending machines. In the United States, it's available at most of the outposts of the H-Mart Korean grocery store chain.
Where to Try It
H-Mart has dozens of locations throughout the United States, including this one in the Koreatown neighborhood of Manhattan.