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Butter Tea: The Vitalizing Tibetan Drink

butter tea

Consumption of butter tea is a centuries-old tradition by the Tibetans to survive in the deadly low temperatures of the world’s highest plateau. Let’s learn more about this special drink which is vitalizing and energizing at the same time.

What is Butter Tea?

Butter tea, commonly known as po cha, sūyóu chá, or Tibetan tea, is a hot beverage that’s a staple in the Himalayan regions of Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, India, and western China. It uses traditional Chinese Pu-erh tea leaves, water, yak butter, and salt. Its high-fat content serves as an excellent source of calories, while the Pu-erh tea leaves give the boost of alertness with its considerable caffeine content. This tea is especially suited for people living in high altitudes with low oxygen levels as it is energizing and warming. 

Image Credit: Flickr user preetamrai ( CC BY-ND 2.0 )

Tibetans and Himalayans start their day with a hot cup of butter tea, and quite interestingly, they can drink up to 60 cups of butter tea in a day to maintain their body temperatures at extremely high altitudes.

What does Butter Tea taste like?

Butter tea offers a strong tea flavor with a savory taste. The texture is buttery with a soup-like consistency. It’s an acquired taste that’s very unlike other common tea varieties. It’s often mixed with barley flour to form Tsampa, a Tibetan breakfast meal. 

How is Butter Tea Made?

Butter tea is prepared with Pu-erh tea leaves that are boiled in water for several hours until dark in color. The prepared tea is then mixed with yak butter and salt, and continuously churned until the butter becomes homogenous with the Pu-erh tea and forms a soupy consistency. The tea is traditionally served in ceramic or copper cups. 

Image Credit: Flickr user Great Himalaya Trails ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

What is eaten with Butter Tea?

While it’s majorly consumed without any accompaniments, a common practice is to pour butter tea over barley flour, forming a breakfast cereal. Besides, It can be consumed with a piece of Sourdough bread at breakfast, and some biscuits in the afternoon. We believe our Garlic Parmesan Monkey Bread, and Irish Soda Bread would perfectly complement the savory buttery drink.

Feature Image: Flickr user Buddhist Fox ( CC BY 2.0 )

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