Thursday, April 24, 2014


Butter Tea
[Photograph: Double Virgo]

Purplish Color in Yak Butter Tea
Photo by avlxyz / CC BY

Tibetan Monk Making Yak Butter Tea with a Churn
Photo by John Hill / CC BY

Churn Top View
Photo by kwloo / CC BY

OTHER NAMES: Po Cha (“Tibetan tea” in Tibetan), Cha Süma ("churned tea" in Tibetan), Su Cha (in Sherpa)

Tibetan Butter Tea is a hot tea made with yak butter, milk, salt, boiling water, and a special black tea brick that comes from Pemagul, Tibet. [1] The resulted tea has a purplish color. 

Butter tea is not only a daily tea for Tibetans, but also common among most Chinese minorities in southwestern China, the Bhutanese, and Buddhist minorities in India. [3] Especially at high altitudes like Tibet and the Himalaya region where it is often cold, hot butter tea is a good source of calorie [4], and to keep body warm and hydrated. [5]


While evidence of tea has been found in Tibet before the 10th century, it did not reach its nearly universal status until about the 13th century. [6]


Many of us might not be familiar with this savory yak buttery tea. It could be difficult to imagine its taste before you ever try it. Liz Clayton from Serious Eat describes the taste of Butter Tea,  

"From the minute the savory concoction hits your lips, it confuses. Slightly astringent yet warm and buttery, you're initially warmed and then confused with butter and then confused again with black tea. The sting of salt is like having a drink of the ocean—which usually feels like a mistake. You get thirstier and thirstier, which is Po Cha's clever little game, and it may take a western palate hundreds of sips (or cups) to begin to make up their mind. Many never finish the first." [2]


Traditionally, tea is made by boiling tea leaves in water for half a day, achieving a dark brown color. It is then strained and poured into a churn with fresh yak butter, yak milk, and salt. After churning and all ingredients are mixed well, it will be poured into a thermos bottle or kettle to serve the hot foamy tea in individual cups or small bowls. [7] Sometimes it is mixed with roasted barley/maize called Tsampa too. 

Because the traditional recipe requires ingredients and tools are not available to most people, an alternative method of making butter tea is to boil water with black tea leaves(Pu-erh, Darjeeling, or Nigiri) and cow milk(or half&half), then strain and blend the mixture with cow butter, and salt.

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