Daily Ritual: Amdo Milk Tea

Tibetan Tea, Amdo Milk Tea, Tibetan food

With the cold weather in full swing here in North America and in the Far East where I’m from, I thought I would share with you a winter comfort blanket, in the form of hot beverage that will warm you from the inside out. And who knew there are health benefits of tea that’s rich in antioxidants, containing vital vitamins and minerals.

Milk tea is a daily etiquette in Tibetan society. It means a meal, conversation, symbol of comfort, and celebration. This tea is a well-liked drink consumed far and wide on the plateau, especially in the Amdo and Kham regions. People from Lhasa area like their tea sweet; this is also the region where they more commonly enjoy butter tea.

In the birthplace of Rebgong Art in Amdo, we like our tea unsweetened. Some areas in Amdo may serve it with touch of sea salt. Families start the day by brewing quite a large quantity of the hot drink. It is enjoyed year-round for breakfast, pour the rest into an insulated container and make a fresh batch as needed through the day and into the evening. Non-Tibetans in the valley such as Mongol subgroups, Hui Muslims and Han Chinese in the area have now also adopted this ritual.

Tibetan milk tea, tea ritual, yak milk tea

When you visit or an unexpected guest drops by, the hostess will graciously start a pot brewing – no questions asked. The milk for this hot beverage comes from the Dri (the female yak), Zhomo (Dzomo, Yak and Cattle crossbreed), or in some cases Cow or Goat, and is adjusted to taste.

While tea simply made with milk is more authentic to my town, I add a pinch of salt and sugar to the pot. It’s neither salty nor sweet but develops a more full-bodied, complex flavor. Also, my grandmother liked her milk tea, often with ground walnuts to create this rich, tasty essence. To this day, my mother makes it daily, the same way her mother always made it.

When I think of moments enjoying tea in my childhood home, I think of the continuity it represents – the image of family and guests lingering around a fire and chatting away after a soul-warming meal.

Making it is as easy as pie. Brew the loose leaves or bags in a teakettle or in a lidded pot, any good black tea will do and steep for a few minutes. Then enrich it with full-fat milk. You now have Tibetan milk tea to warm you up and experience the taste of the mountainous culture.

And recipe for you this time … Get the Recipe Here

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3 Responses to Daily Ritual: Amdo Milk Tea

  1. peggygilbey814628432 January 26, 2015 at 9:20 PM #

    Hello Jolma, thank you for sharing this lovely story. This tea looks interesting as part of the daily ritual among the Tibetan people, and the social connection it provides, including those of hospitality on visits. It is quite enjoyable reading your interesting stories and insight, beautiful.

    • Jolma January 26, 2015 at 11:18 PM #

      Tea is an important element of our culture. I’m glad you enjoyed the story, Peggy.

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