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How to Make Tibetan Butter Tea

Enjoy this Tibetan butter tea: a warm, buttery, and salty drink.

Enjoy this 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. 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!


  • 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 a boil.
  2. Add the tea and boil for five minutes.
  3. Strain the 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! For 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 tea. Serving the tea with traditional Tibetan cuisine is perfect for those wanting to enjoy a meal that is both unique and delicious!

© 2011 Melanie Palen