Butter tea, also known as po cha, is a hot drink made from black tea, salt, and butter. Milk or powdered milk is also often added. This drink’s creation is most widely attributed to Tibetan monks, who typically use butter made from yak’s milk when making the tea. Tibetans often drink several bowls each day, as they believe it warms them in the cool mountain temperatures and gives them energy. Though traditional butter tea as the monks make it requires a relatively arduous process, it is fairly simple to make at home using products from a grocery store.
Many people in tune with Asian culture are fond of butter tea, and it has been suggested that the hot drink can make a fun, tasty holiday tradition during cold months. This drink can be made with just a few readily available ingredients. Black tea bags may be purchased at virtually any supermarket or health food store. The first step in making this drink is usually to boil water and steep the tea bags or loose tea leaves for a few minutes.
A blender or churn is often used when making butter tea, which may yield the best results. Butter, salt and milk are added to the black tea and blended or shaken until the mixture is completely liquidized. The result is typically a frothy, creamy beverage that is served in tea cups or bowls.
In Tibet, where grocery stores with pre-packaged tea bags and butter are not abundant, the process of making butter tea can take quite some time and effort. Black tea, often found in the Pemagul area of Tibet, is boiled in water for up to several hours. This step creates the first ingredient of traditional po cha, called chaku. Butter is usually churned by hand and, along with milk, added to boiling hot water along with a bit of chaku.
The people of Tibet regard butter tea for many reasons. As they live at relatively high altitudes, the heat from the drink and the high calorie (kilojoule) content is said to provide sufficient warmth and energy. For some, it is customary to offer guests a bowl of po cha, which is refilled each time the guest takes even one sip. It is believed that a hospital host will never leave a guest with an empty bowl.
Though butter tea, as the name may suggest, is not typically regarded as a healthy drink, the black tea from which it is made is believed to have several health benefits. The tea leaves are high in antioxidants, which have the ability to fight free radicals in the body that could otherwise create health problems such as cancer. Black tea is also thought to stimulate the immune system and aid the body in fighting off illness.