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How to Make Tibetan Butter Tea

Melanie has been interested in cultures, languages, and travel since her youth. She also runs a YouTube channel: The Curious Coder.

This article will show you how to make Tibetan butter tea, a warm, buttery, and salty drink.

This article will show you how to make Tibetan butter tea, a warm, buttery, and salty drink.

What Is Butter Tea?

In the mountainous regions of Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan, the locals enjoy a drink called "po cha" (butter tea). Trekkers on the Annapurna circuit and Everest region often stop and spend the night at tea houses built along popular trekking routes. This is the main exposure of butter tea to Westerners.

Butter tea helps warm trekkers coming in from the frigid Himalayan air. The tea is not only a great way to warm up, but it's also high in calories. This additional caloric intake gives hikers more energy.

The butter used in this tea is made from yak milk, as there is an abundance of yak in the Himalayan Mountains. The butter also helps prevent lips from chapping due to the dry mountain air.

Making yak butter tea is easy and offers a unique experience (for those wishing to try it). Those who have visited the Himalayas may have become addicted to this warm, buttery, and salty tea and wish to learn to make it at home.

A cup of warm butter tea to cure what ails you.

A cup of warm butter tea to cure what ails you.

What You'll Need

  • 1 tablespoon or 2 tea bags of black tea
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of yak butter
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk

Yak butter may prove extremely difficult to find, even for those living in a large city. Although the tea won't quite be authentic, it's OK to use cow butter. For those looking for a more "unusual" taste, try using goat butter, which is monumentally easier to find than yak butter.

Another alternative is to use ghee (clarified butter), which is commonly used in the Himalayas. Ghee can often be found in the ethnic food aisle at your local supermarket.

Making Yak Butter Tea

In Tibet, it can take quite a while to make butter tea. The process includes making a strong tea concentrate called "chaku." This is essentially steeping tea leaves in boiling hot water for several hours. When the tea leaves are strained out, what remains is called chaku.

Chaku is an extremely strong tea base that makes for a popular additive in Tibetan cuisine, particularly butter tea. In the process of making this drink, the chaku is added to a churn along with yak butter and salt to be mixed before serving.

This recipe for butter tea is a much quicker and easier way to make this drink as it takes just a few minutes to make and enjoy versus the many hours it can take making butter tea the traditional way!

Here are the steps to quickly and easily whip up a batch of authentic tasting Tibetan butter tea:

  1. Bring the water to boil.
  2. Add the tea and boil for five minutes.
  3. Strain mixture (if loose tea was used) or remove the tea bags.
  4. Discard the loose tea/tea bags
  5. Melt the butter and put it in a blender.
  6. Add the boiling mixture, salt, and milk to the blender and blend well.
  7. Pour into a traditional Tibetan tea cup (a coffee mug will also do.)


Butter Tea Pairs Well With Thupka and Yak Yoghurt

The finished yak butter tea will be very hot, but the drink is best enjoyed when it is very warm! Those looking to complement their butter tea with Tibetan food, it's good to know that it goes great with a noodle dish called thupka, which is made from yak meat and veggies.

A great dessert to go along with your thupka and butter tea is yak yoghurt (yep, there's a yak theme, here!) Balep bread is also a great addition as it can be dipped in the tea. Serving the tea with traditional Tibetan cuisine is perfect those wanting to enjoy a meal that is both unique and delicious!

© 2011 Melanie Palen


Sammi Steele on December 08, 2012:

At first I was like "Where am I going to find Yak butter?!" but then you said we could use cow butter as well. I really look forward to making this and trying something new.

Jeffrey on November 23, 2012:

I had it in Nepal in a monastery. I kind of liked it, unlike many of my travel companions.

David Warren from Nevada and Puerto Vallarta on October 21, 2012:

Thank You! I saw this while browsing hubs this morning. Now a few hours later I have returned to comment as I sit drinking the American version (cow's butter) of my first ever 'po cha'.

Melanie Palen (author) from Midwest, USA on January 22, 2012:

Tammy, the butter is made from yak milk. Sounds yummy, right? :P I'm glad you're able to learn from me. I learn a ton from you.

Tammy from North Carolina on January 22, 2012:

Is the yak butter made of yak fat or yak milk? I would taste it.. Very interesting though. You have the best ideas ever and I learn soooo much from you.

Dave from United States on January 22, 2012:

I am intrigued, and just as I loved eating and mixing weird stuff in the kitchen when I was a kid, I love to cook as an adult and try new things. This has potential.

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on January 22, 2012:

I am a tea fanatic! I would give it a try. Can you make me a cup?:)

RTalloni on December 29, 2011:

You have reminded me of childhood limericks. I remember some about yaks and Tibet, and Lima and llamas, and England and tea, and--oh wait, the tea--yuk, but not because it comes from the yak. The combination just sounds yuk on every level, but you are a dear for sharing this with us. Thanks for the smile. :)

Springboard from Wisconsin on December 04, 2011:

It's funny how our minds are so conditioned...we readily drink and consume things made from cows milk. Thinking of a milk coming from a goat is more acceptable, but still there are plenty who would scoff at it immediately. Milk from a Yak? Unheard of. In the mind, totally unpalatable. :) But then who knows?

I must admit I'd be interested in trying Yak meat maybe as well as Yak butter?

Still, there's this word that makes me think this may not be as good as you have alluded to here...and that's the word salty. I can't imagine salty being good in a tea.

But again, can't knock it as I've never tried it.

Adventure Colorad from Denver,CO on April 14, 2011:

Oh man this takes me back, I had yak butter tea in Nepal in 2000. Man was it disgusting! But it was a fun time being there. I did like the "national" nepalese drink, Chia. It was excellent.

Melanie Palen (author) from Midwest, USA on April 10, 2011:

No worries! I edited the poll for those that aren't quite sure as friends who've read the hub also are not quite sure of which they would choose!

Mishael Austin Witty from Kentucky, USA on April 07, 2011:

I was going to ask: where do you get yak butter? But it's good to know that cow butter will do in a pinch. :-)

I didn't vote in the poll because I'm somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. On the one hand, it does sound a little gross, but it also sounds intriguing. I just can't make up my mind!

Melanie Palen (author) from Midwest, USA on April 06, 2011:

I know exactly how you feel! I read this really old travel book about Nepal when I was a (weird) kid.

Lidian on April 06, 2011:

Now, this is just the sort of Hub I love! It's funny, because I was just rereading an old travel book on Tibet that I loved when I was a (weird) kid, and the authors are constantly drinking yak butter tea. Now I can make the perfect accompaniment when I read this book. Of course, I will need some yak butter first, which could be a problem ;)

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