Posted in Kafevend Blog
After last month's look at the use of salt in coffee, you may not be surprised to learn that it's a taste you'll also encounter in tea in some parts of the world. In Tibet tea is made with, not only salt, but butter too. Po cha or butter tea is an acquired taste and westerners are sometimes encouraged to think of it as a light soup in order to dispel the expectation that it will taste anything like the cup of tea they're familiar with.
Tibetans use black tea grown in an area called Pemagul. The tea comes in the form of tea bricks;some is crumbled off and boiled for several hours. The resulting concentrated tea is saved and used a little at a time in boiling water whenever tea is required. The butter and milk in po cha comes from the dri or nak, the female yak, and is closer in taste to goat's milk/cheese than cow's. Traditionally the tea, butter and salt are blended together in a churn called a chandong. Po cha has a high calorific content, making it ideal for a hard day's work in the cold temperature and high altitude of the Tibetan plateau, where water boils at a lower temperature, about 87ºC.
A lot of tea is consumed over the course of a typical day. Generally drunk from wooden or ceramic bowls, it is customary on social occasions for the host to top up the tea bowl after each sip. Therefore, guests who are either not thirsty, or not keen on the taste, would do best to leave the tea untouched until it's time to leave when they can just drink that particular serving without causing offence to the host.