Tibetan Butter Tea - Po cha

  • by Eric
  • Last Updated: 2020-03-05

You haven’t gotten the best of Tibet if you haven’t tried “Po cha”—the Tibetan Butter Tea! Po cha, of course, has an exquisite taste that is typically Tibetan. It leaves a tingling salty sensation on your taste buds. It is also rather not sweet. It carries a flavor that you may not be familiar with. 

If you are new in Tibet, you may have tasted this tea, especially, during cold days! Tibetans love to serve this tea to their guests. At first, you may readily dismiss its taste, but as days drag on, you'll get the hang of its taste and make you hanker for it.

You'll get served with this tea if you visit some houses of your Tibetan friends. You'll also get served with this tea if you visit some Tibetan communities in Nepal or India. You may consider it as a light soup that you can associate with warmth on a very cold day. And it can give you energy and enough zest to brave the cold weather of Tibet.

Tibetan butter tea

The Complicated Traditional Way of Preparing Po cha

As you sip your hot po cha, you'll get pepped up by its warm lingering taste. Yet, behind this tea is a long and complicated process of preparing it. Its preparation goes back to the harvesting of black tea from an area referred to as Pemagul in Tibet.

This black tea is usually delivered in bricks of varied sizes. Then, some tea bricks are crumbled off and boiled for several hours. The resulting liquid from this boiling process is saved and comes in handy whenever you want to sip a tea. This resulting liquid is referred to as "chaku."


The process, however, does not stop there. If you want to drink tea, you can get the saved liquid and pour some of it into a pot of boiling water. Butter, salt, and milk are then added into the boiling water to create the tea.

How to Prepare Butter Tea

Nothing is better than the original Po cha from Tibet. Yet, you can surely prepare your po cha even if you are not in Tibet. The original po cha, of course, is prepared from tea leaves. These tea leaves are boiled for almost half a day to achieve a dark brown color. Then, it is skimmed, afterward, poured into a cylinder that contains salt and yak butter. This concoction results into a very thick stew or thick oil. Then, it is poured into jars or teapots.

Another way to prepare a delightful po cha is by boiling water. Then, add a handful of tea into the boiling water. Let it steep until the water turns almost black. Afterward, you add salt along with a bit of soda. Then, you strain the tea using a reed colander or horsehair. Afterward, pour the tea into a wooden churn.

You can then add a lump of butter to give it its exquisite taste. Afterward, you churn it until the right consistency is achieved. Then, transfer it into a copper pot. You can also stir it rapidly if you don't have a churn. Some people make use of tea bugs whenever butter tea isn't available.

add a lump of butter to Tibetan tea

Preparing Butter Tea If You're Not in Tibet

If you are not in Tibet, yet, miss the taste of Po cha, don't sulk and brood. You can still get a cup of this tea even if you don't have the black tea from Pemagul. You simply need to learn how to prepare one. You also need to know and prepare the different ingredients to make one. Here are your ingredients:

  • Plain black tea—you can use two Lipton's black tea or any other loose tea.
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
  • 3 cup or a half cup of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 4 cups of water.

You will need a blender, a churn, a container with a tight lid for shaking up the concoction. You can produce two cups of po cha from these ingredients.

Prepare butter tea on your own

Steps on Preparing a Po cha at home

Now that you have all the ingredients and equipment, you can then begin your quest for the perfect po cha outside Tibet.

  • First, you need to boil your four cups of water. Then, put your bags of tea into the boiling water. Allow it to steep while the water boils for several minutes. If you want stronger tea, you can use more bags of tea.
  • Pour in one-quarter of a salt teaspoon.
  • Remove the tea bags afterward and turn off the stove.
  • Then, pour your concoction into a chandong or churn. Add 2 tablespoon of butter. If you don't have a churn, you can use a big container that comes with a lid. The lid should be tight enough to allow you to shake the tea. You can also use a blender as an alternative.
  • Afterward, shake the mixture for three minutes. The longer you churn the po cha, the tastier it becomes. It would be good to note that po cha is best consumed while it is hot. So, serve it right after shaking it.

History of Po cha

Tibetans have been known to be fond of tea since the 7th century AD. Yet, drinking tea had only become widely popular in Tibet in the 13th century during the time of the Phagmodu kings and Sakya hierarchy. At present, almost all Tibetans are fond of drinking tea. In fact, drinking tea has become part of their way of life. They drink it before working. They also enjoy several bowlfuls of tea every day. They also often serve their guests with tea.

Customary Drinking of Po cha for Guests

If it is your first time visiting a Tibetan house, you will be surprised if you are served with Po cha. You should remember, however, that po cha is best drunk in separate sips. You'll get surprised too if, after each sip, your host will refill your bowl to the brim.

So, you may be wondering how you can finish your tea if the host keeps on refilling your cup. Well, if you don't wish to drink the tea, the best thing to do is not to touch the tea and drain it only when you are about to leave. Hosts are usually offended if you don't know this custom. So, be very careful if you are offered this tea as a guest.

Tibetan butter tea

The Nutritional Value of Po cha

Drinking po cha usually gives you strength. It strengthens your blood, muscles, bones, and body tissues. It is believed to create internal balance. Thus, Tibetans who toil in the farms at a high altitude get enough boost from drinking this tea.

This tea is also believed to carry antioxidant properties. It also contains caffeine that can stimulate the central nervous system. So, farmers and herders get enough energy boost from drinking this tea.

Po cha also carries a dose of salt. Salt regulates the pH balance of the blood and has a diuretic property. This tea also contains fibers, vitamins, and other trace minerals that are needed by the body. Plus, it has yak butter that is around 80% fat. The fat contents of this tea can surely improve the health of your bone.

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