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Yak Butter Tea | Tibet

Much like Guinness this Tibetan specialty is a meal in a glass, and a very buttery one, I might add. Thick as oil, yak butter tea is made using tea leaves, water and butter from Tibet’s beast of burden, the yak.

Consuming butter tea is an integral part of life for Tibetans. To kick off each day, Tibetans typically drink several of these beverages out of tiny little bowls. Nomads, who live in the mountains and along the Tibetan plateau, are said to drink up to 40 cups of it a day. In a Tibetan home it is customary for the hosts to continue refilling the bowl to the brim after a few sips are taken. The guest is never supposed to drain his or her bowl, rather, have it constantly topped up.

Butter tea is made by boiling black tea leaves for a half a day. The tea is then combined with salt and butter in a special tea churn and churned for several hours before serving hot.

For Tibetans who are constantly in battle with nature and all of its colder elements, butter tea provides great sustenance. In a place where very little can actually grow, fatty butter tea is also a great way to escape cold and hunger, and as an added bonus, it’s said to keep those lips less chapped.

We soon learned yak butter tea may not be the best fit for a foreign palate. More rancid than savory, this frothy, oily brew is definitely an acquired taste.

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  1. roundwego says:

    Losang, fair enough. I’ll defer to you since you’ve spent more time there than we have. We were not insinuating that all Tibetans drink that much tea though, just giving a frame of reference.