Summers are here and you want to head to the mountains to escape the heat. One of the most popular and scenic destinations you can visit is Ladakh, in the lap of the Himalayas. Well, not in these uncertain times but anytime otherwise. The weather in Ladakh is extremely cold, but the locals here do not feel as cold as the people from non-mountainous regions and are extremely energetic. Surely they have must some super power? Well, the answer is actually in their indigenous drink called Gur-Gur Chai or Butter tea as non-locals call it.
Every region has its own local food and its very own specialty. The same is the case Ladakhi Butter Tea, the region’s most prominent drink. It is made out of Yak milk, salt, Yak butter and a type of Tibetan tea leaves from Pemagul. The Ladakhis call it Gur-Gur Chai and it is this tea that gives them the energy required to beat the winters.
Butter tea is an essential element in the everyday life of a Ladakhi. They swear by it. Apart from the energy it provides throughout the day, butter tea also keeps the skin and lips moisturised and prevent them from chapping. It also helps in digestion and is good for the cardiovascular system. It helps one in staying focused by calming the mind. In Leh’s popular Hemis monastery, which is renowned for serving the best butter tea in the region, you can join the priests in their holy prayer and sip the hot beverage alongside them. It’s an incredible feeling that everyone must experience at least once in their lives.
Butter tea, which is also called Po Cha in Mandarin, is not limited to Ladakh. It is also an essential element in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Western China as well as Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim in the Indian subcontinent. Butter tea is always served to guests as a gesture of hospitality and the bowl is always filled to the brim. As per tradition, the bowl must never be empty. As soon as a sip is taken out of it, it is refilled. Thus, a guests’ bowl never drains and one must only drain the bowl when they wish to leave. This way, the hosts do not feel offended.
Apart from drinking the butter tea by itself, it can also be consumed along with fresh bread. The locals also make a healthy stew out if by pouring it over wheat flour, called tsampa.
Butter tea is an acquired taste and can feel very different for those having it for the first time, as it is savoury as opposed to regular sweetened tea.
While butter tea is mostly healthy if consumed in moderate quantities, it can cause certain side-effects like anxiety, high blood pressure, headache, and insomnia for someone who has too much of it. The locals instinctively know in what quantities this beverage is to be consumed to reap its benefits. Hence, when it comes to Butter tea, it’s always best to drink as the locals and with the locals in Ladakh.
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Sneha is an avid reader and writer who quit her job to pursue her passion for writing. When she is not reading or writing, she can be found teaching kids, cooking or cuddled in her bed watching Netflix.