Butter tea is drunk in separate sips, and after each sip, the host refills the bowl to the brim.
Butter tea is a very famous drink of the people in the Himalayan regions of Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Tibet and Western regions of modern-day China and the Caribbean. It is traditionally made with tea leaves (often pu’er tea leaves), yak butter, water, and salt.
The history of tea in Tibet dates back to the 7th century, however, it did not become popular until about the 13th century. Legend has it that a Chinese princess married a king of Tibet which later helped establish trade routes between China and Tibet. These trade routes brought tea into Tibet from China. Later, butter was added to the tea that was brought from China as butter is and was a staple in Tibetan cuisine.
In Tibetan tradition, butter tea is drunk in separate sips, and after each sip, the host refills the bowl to the brim. Thus, the guest never drains his bowl; it is constantly topped up. If the visitor does not wish to drink, the best thing to do is leave the tea untouched until the time comes to leave and then drain the bowl. In this way, etiquette is observed and the host will not be offended.
Although there is no formal ceremony for the preparation of the tea, butter tea is drunk at different Tibetan ceremonies. During a proper Sherpa funeral ceremony, it is custom for the deceased's relatives to invite the guests into their house with a cup of butter tea. During the Tibetan New Year, Losar, ceremonies last for three days in the monasteries. Prior to their long prayers in the afternoon, monks start the morning with butter tea and sweet rice.
Traditional Tibetan Butter Tea Recipe:
- 4 cups of water
- 2 tablespoons of tea
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- ½ cup of milk or half
- Bring the water to boil, and then turn down the heat.
- Put two tablespoons of tea in the water and continue to boil for a couple of minutes, then strain.
- Combine the tea, salt, butter and milk in the blender and blend for 2-3 minutes, the longer the better.
Serve the tea right away, since it tastes best when it’s very hot. The taste is unusual for non-Tibetans, it might help to think of it as a very light soup rather than as tea.
Compiled By: Nikita Gautam
Photos By: Thristy for Tea, Yowangdu