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What is Tibetan Butter Tea?


It’s seven-thirty in the am and before I sit down in my office chair, I always make sure to do it with a fresh cup of white tea. This is the only sure way that I will be well balanced in mood, calm in spirit and ready to take on the day, every day.

In certain parts of Tibet, the classic morning cuppa might look a little different though. What am I talking about? Yak Butter tea / pu’erh tea.

What is butter tea?

As the name would suggest, it is a specific style of tea that is traditional to Tibet and dates to the tenth century. The butter that is used in this tea comes from the yak (an ox, who are members of the bovine family and could be related to buffalo), making it an expensive cup of tea. This type of tea came about as a means of sustenance and survival, rather than a delicacy in its time, having said that, it is traditionally made from yak butter, salt, and black tea. Some parts of Tibet also add barley to the tea making it a breakfast meal in the poorer parts.

Also known as Tibetan medicine, it is believed to sharpen one’s mind and body. So how do we make this tea?

How to make Traditional Butter Tea?

As easy as this tea sounds, there is quite a process involved in its preparation starting with the black tea. A strong smokey black tea is first brewed until the colour is close to black- patience is key here as it can take a few hours to achieve this peak. Once the black tea is ready, it is poured into a bamboo pot, where at least 3 tablespoons of butter are added, a good handful of salt and depending on which parts of Tibet you’re in, maybe some normal milk is added to the mix. This concoction is then shaken (not stirred) and Tada! Your traditional Yak butter Tea is ready.

Due to the rich flavour of Yak butter and the fact that not everybody can afford it, sometimes normal cow milk is used as a cheaper alternative, letting go of that rich, dairy heavy flavour that comes from a grass heavy diet.

Now don’t be surprised if what you see in your cup looks more like a soup than a tea, as this was made for sustenance and not as a delicacy, which means it is filling and fueling.

The best way to serve butter tea is in a deep bowl and one doesn't need a lot of it per serving, so sip slowly and enjoy it, especially during the winter months.

Seeing as how not all of us can get our hands on the traditional ingredients list, lets’ look at a simpler more modern recipe and how this butter tea has become a trend, known as Bulletproof tea.

What is bulletproof tea?

Never in my life did I ever think of tea with all salt and no sugar would become a trend, but here we are. Having said that, “bulletproof tea” is an acquired taste and is not for the faint-hearted, although I am very curious myself to try a cup.

Oh, and did I mention it keeps you warm during winter, what I also meant to say was that it does have butter in it and is dairy-rich so if you’re watching your figure you might want to stop at a sip for taste and experience and pass it over my way ;)

A simple modern recipe:

So, if this tea is friends with the waistline (when consumed daily) why bother? Because everything in moderation is beneficial. Some say it helps with weight loss when consumed in moderate amounts as it helps to burn off that fat, what I do know is that it also comes with a host of benefits like boosting your energy levels, is good for your brain thanks to the antioxidants, and improves digestion.

  • Put water in a pot to boil and once the peak is reached, turn it down
  • Add tea leaves to the pot, about 1 teaspoon or less will do and let it brew till dark in colour
  • Strain the tea leaves and add in the 2 cubes of unsalted butter, a quarter cup of milk and a pinch of salt.
  • Blend it all (you can use an actual blender or shake it in an airtight cup), right before

Browse through our range of black teas here and create your own modern butter tea cuppa. Share your recipes with us and enjoy every moment.

-     Ari

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