Chinese Culture / Tea Culture

Tibetan Tea Drinking Culture And Customs

Tea has been a daily necessity of the Tibetan people for generations. There’s a saying in Tibetan region: “Better to go three days without grain than one day without tea.” Why is that? Let’s find out now.

A Tibetan Saying on the importance of tea in daily life.

Why is tea So important in Tibetan Life?

Tibetan region is located on the high altitude plateau. People eat lots of meat, cheese products, and highland barley. Yet, due to scarcity people don’t consume much vegetables and fruits.

Tea comes as a great supplement for this meat-heavy diet and balances out the oiliness. It also helps enhance the immune system and provides natural antioxidants. In another word, tea is nutritious, refreshing, and a necessity in Tibetan life.

Tea is also widely consumed by Tibetan Buddhists to show the effect of spiritual purity. Monks perform their practice and maintain clear thinking with the help of brewing and drinking tea. Tea had long become an indispensable drink of many Tibetan Buddhist monks.

Tibetan Hospitality

Because of the importance of tea, it is an etiquette of the hosts to serve butter tea and barley wine to the guests, and fill their tea cups at any time. At weddings and festivals in the Tibetan region, tea along with hada (a piece of silk used as a greeting gift) are used as gifts.  

tibetan tea house
A Tibetan Teahouse In The Morning

Tibetan Butter Tea

Teahouses can be found in markets all over the Tibetan region. There are a bunch of ways to drink tea here, including yak butter tea, milk tea, sweet tea and plain tea. Mixing yak butter in tea is the most popular and the oldest way of drinking tea in Tibetan region.

There is a tale about the origin of the butter tea. When Tang dynasty’s Princess Wencheng first married to Tibet, she was not used to the yak butter, so she put the butter in tea in order to make it more approachable for her.


Almost every Tibetan family owns a wooden churning tube for making the butter tea. To make a delicious and smooth bowl of butter tea, first we need to boil the brick tea and filter out the leaves. Then pour the brick tea liqueur in the tube, add yak butter, cheese and salt, churn constantly so to mix the ingredients thoroughly. Now it’s ready!

By the way, did you know that this recipe is highly popular among those who follow a Keto or Paleo diet?!

A Tibetan Butter Tea Churing Tube

Tea And Salt 

Tibetans like salt in their tea. This custom can be seen in the Tibetan sayings: “Tea on the tree, salt in the lake”; “Loving each other just like tea and salt”; “Tea without salt is like languages without proverbs.”

The abundance of salt in lakes resulting in its use in tea.

There’s a fascinating folklore tale, which you can read here: The Tibetan Legend of Tea & Salt.

Tea mixed with salt has long been a popular way of drinking tea in Tibet. It helps the body absorb the tea better, and it taste good too!

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