Butter and Buttered Tea

By: Song Shuhong, Tibet from all Angles
Updated: May 23, 2018

Butter is the daily necessity of Tibetans and is based on the fat extracted from the milk of various animals. Yak butter is a favorite of Tibetan people. It is produced in summer and autumn, and is characterized by bright yellow color, and sweet and good taste. Butter containing various kinds of vitamins can nourish the stomach, and has very high nutritional values. It can supplement the various needs of people in the Tibetan areas with the relatively simple structure of food.


In the past, herdsmen refined the butter as follows: first, heat the milk, pour it into a big wooden vat, forcefully spin it hundreds of times to separate the oil from the water, scoop up the yellow fat floating on the surface and pour it into a leather pocket to cool. Now, many places gradually use a cream separator to refine the butter.


There are many ways of enjoying it. People usually drink buttered tea of mix it with zanba. Butter also has other usages. The fuel of the lamps burning in the monasteries of Tibet all year Found is just butter.


In addition, Tibetan medicine uses butter to moisten the complexion, increase the heat and prevent the skin from cracking. Butter is necessary for festivals and weddings. All kinds of snacks made of butter are good-looking and crispy. The peculiar butter sculpture is unique, fully reflecting the cultural characteristics of the Tibetan ethnic group.


Buttered tea is the daily drink necessary for all Tibetan people and has traditionally been used to entertain guests. When bidding farewell to relatives and friends leaving on a long journey, people will present a white hada and buttered tea, to wish them good luck.


The process of making buttered tea is as follows: fully stir the boiled brick tea and butter in the special butter bucket to ensure a good mix, add a little salt, then pour into a ceramic or metal teapot, and heat for drinking. People can adjust the tea flavor according to taste and habit. Buttered tea with relatively high heat is especially suitable for protecting against cold on the plateau. Brick tea is usually used to make buttered tea. This kind of brick tea keeps well on long journeys and is also easy to carry. The unique natural and geographical environment of the Tibet Plateau is not suitable for growth of vegetables. Tibetan people supplement the vitamins and other nutrients contained in vegetables through tea.


When drinking tea, the Tibetan people pay attention to age seniority, and the order of master and guest. Guests must not drink too fast, and, generally speaking, drinking three bowls is the most propitious. The host always pours a full bowl (cup) of buttered tea and places it on the Tibetan-style table in front of the guest. Then the host will pick up the butter pot and shake it a few times. The guest should not start drinking until this act has been performed. At that moment, the guest can pick up the bowl, blow gently for a circle to blow off the butter floating all the tea, sip and praise its quality. When the guest puts the bowl back on the table, the host will refill it. A hospitable host is always ready to carry out this service; if the guest does not want to drink any more, it is only necessary not to touch the full bowl. When preparing to leave, the guest can drink a few mouthfuls, but not drain the bowl (cup). This is the habit and the courtesy of the Tibetan ethnic group.