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Tibetan Beverage: Top 10 Drinks You Can't Miss on a Tibet Tour

October,25 2023 BY Master Catherine Jigme 0 COMMENTS

Tibet is the purest place in the world in terms of its natural ecological environment, with the cleanest water sources, the most primitive livestock, and soil free from chemical pollution. In this magical land, numerous delicious beverages born from nature have emerged, each of which is a gift from nature and a sweet return from the grasslands. Apart from the famous butter tea and barley wine, Tibet has many other specialty beverages worth trying.

1. Tibetan Butter Tea is the The must-have Tibetan tea in Tibetan households

Tibetans consider tea a lifeline, and Tibetan tea culture holds a long-standing tradition in Tibetan history. Among the various tea beverages in Tibet, Tibetan butter tea is the most essential daily drink in Tibetan households.

In Tibet, every family prepare at least one pot of butter tea each day. The first thing a Tibetan housewife does in the morning is to boil water and make tea, which is then stored in an insulated water bottle for the family to enjoy throughout the day.

treat guest with butter teaTibetans always treat guests with butter tea

Making Tibetan butter tea is simple: boil tea leaves in water, add butter (ghee), milk, and sugar, and blend for a few minutes using a special mixer. The result is a steaming pot of butter tea, with a layer of milk fat floating on the surface, a soft and sweet taste that leaves you enjoying every drop.

It is not only consumed during breakfast. At other times of the day, butter tea replaces water, and a bowl can be poured from the thermos at any time.

For tourists, drinking butter tea when visiting Tibet has many benefits. Due to the dry environment and discomfort from the high altitude, butter tea can effectively relieve physical discomfort and help adapt to the plateau environment. In addition, butter tea is rich in energy and nutrients, making it helpful for replenishing strength and increasing resistance.

2. Tibetan Sweet Tea is a Tibetan Specialty Tea for Social Occasions

In contrast to butter tea, Tibetans rarely prepare sweet tea at home unless they are welcoming guests or hosting large gatherings. Tibetan sweet tea is more affordable, costing only about 6 yuan for one liter. Therefore, it is mainly used for social occasions such as festivals, weddings, and celebrations for a child's education.

Tibetan sweet teaAvor a cup of Tibetan sweet tea at a local teahouse

In Lhasa, numerous sweet tea houses cater to a diverse crowd – from street vendors and friends catching up to shoppers and pilgrims taking a break. A cup of sweet tea costs just 1 yuan, making it a beloved beverage among both locals and tourists. When you visit Tibet, be sure to savor a cup of sweet tea at a local teahouse.

3. Light Tea is a Tibetan Specialty Tea for Afternoon Relaxation

If you find sweet tea too sweet, want a light tea, or have digestive issues with fats and sugars, you can drink the local light tea. Tibetan light tea is a semi-fermented tea that combines black tea and oolong tea, with a touch of salt added during brewing, giving it a slightly salty flavor.

Tibetan light teaTibetan Light Tea

Like butter tea and sweet tea, Tibetan light tea is a beloved beverage among the people of the plateau, especially in the hot afternoons of summer, where you can find a cool spot and relax with a cup of light tea.

For the locals, light tea is a staple in their homes. For tourists, when dining in Tibetan restaurants, light tea is unlimited and provided for free. This is a welcoming and hospitable gesture towards guests, reflecting the local culture and customs.

4. Bone Broth Tea is a Tibetan Specialty Tea Loved by Nomads

Bone broth tea is a popular specialty beverage in Tibetan pastoral areas, with a simple and unique preparation process. It involves breaking down yak leg bones to create a broth, then adding tsampa (roasted barley flour), salt, and either brick tea or black tea, which represents the thrifty of Tibetans.

Tibetan Bone broth teaTibetan Bone Broth Tea

These ingredients combine to provide a rich and nutritious beverage with a distinctive flavor. The tea makes it a significant source of hydration, energy, vitamins, and calcium for pastoral nomads, helping them adapt to the harsh life in the grasslands.

If you have the opportunity to visit Tibetan nomads, you may have a chance to taste a bowl of bone broth tea. This will be a unique tasting experience, allowing you to deeply feel the reverence of the Tibetan people for the gifts of nature and their reverence for food. In the warmth of the tea, you can feel closer to nature, experience the simple life of Tibetan nomads, and witness the local culture and way of life.

5. Yak Milk is a Gift from the Nature and a Household Beverage Passed Down for Millennia

Yak milk holds a rich history in Tibet, dating back to around 1000 B.C. It's a precious resource, traditionally utilized for calf rearing, butter production, temple offerings, and as a daily family beverage. However, due to its scarcity, yaks are now being raised near cities to meet the demand for this unique and nutritious milk.

Tibetan women milking yaksTibetan women milking yaks in the village

What sets yak milk apart is its purity - free from vaccines and antibiotics. It's rich in immunoglobulins, essential for a robust immune system, an element largely absent in cow's milk.

Additionally, yak milk contains 18 amino acids, including conjugated linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid, not found in regular cow's milk.

Moreover, it boasts higher levels of calcium, magnesium, and sodium. Drinking yak milk promises benefits like improved skin moisture, stronger bones, and enhanced immunity.

During your Tibet tour, you can seize the opportunity to savor this distinctive and nutritious milk, a testament to the region's unique heritage and culture.

6. Homemade Yak Yogurt is a Must-Have for Tibetan Nomadic Families

Yogurt adds a touch of sweetness to the lives of the nomads in Tibet. Every day, nomads set aside a portion of the fresh yak milk they obtain for making butter tea and butter, and they use the rest to make yogurt.

Tibetan Homemade Yak YogurtTibetan Homemade Yak Yogurt

The Tibetan nomads make yak yogurt in a traditional way. They boil the fresh yak milk, let it cool, and then add some of the previous day's yogurt, wrapping it in warm blankets. When they unwrap it the next day, it's a bowl of delicious yogurt. Mixed with white sugar, it becomes a special treat for the summer.

Children in the pastoral areas especially love yogurt. Consuming yogurt regularly helps protect their digestive health. In Lhasa's streets, there are also small workshops dedicated to making yogurt. You can find such yogurt shops in the alleys near Barkhor Street. When you're tired from shopping, consider sitting down and enjoying a bowl of authentic handmade yak yogurt, experiencing the genuine Tibetan culinary culture.

7. A Diao is a Popular Tibetan Milk Tea Brand in the Barkhor Street

In Lhasa, there is a popular specialty beverage shop that uses pure yak milk as its base to make various delicious yak milk beverages, attracting numerous tourists and locals to taste. Yak milk tea can be served with ice or made into a milkshake, using unique ingredients like highland barley and local potatoes to create a magical flavor.

A Diao cleverly combines traditional milk tea with modern dessert, earning it the title of "The Light of Tibetan Tea Shop." Nearly every tourist who comes to Tibet will have a cup of tea bought from A Diao in their hands.

A Diao’s signature product is called "Lam La Chö," named after the legendary Tibetan lake Lam La Tso. This milk tea is based on oolong tea and fresh yak milk, with small sweet roasted highland barley cookies sprinkled on the milk froth, and clearly visible highland barley and potato bits as toppings. This highland-inspired milk tea is truly unique.

Distinctive milk tea from A DiaoDistinctive Milk Tea from A Diao

A Diao Tea's distinctive flavor and creative ingredients make it a representation of Tibetan tea, adding fun and culinary enjoyment to tourists, allowing them to taste the blend of Tibetan tea culture and creative cuisine. Trying a cup of A Diao’s tea will undoubtedly be a highlight of your Tibet tour.

8. Tibetan Barley Wine (Chang) is a Tibetan Specialty Alcoholic Beverage

Tibetan barley, also known as Qingke, is the only grain on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, making it the primary ingredient for highland brewing. In Tibet, locals use Tibetan barley to make various types of alchoholic beverages, with barley wine being the most common.

The Tibetan Barley Wine, called as ‘Chang’ in Tibetan, is not only an essential part of daily life in Tibet but also a vital part of Tibetan culture and social activities.

Homemade Tibetan barley wine is thick and sweet, akin to nectar, with an alcohol content of approximately 12%. Rural Tibetan families typically use a simple method for production: they boil Qingke barley to remove moisture, add fermentation starter, and then seal it in a warm place for 24 hours. The liquid filtered out is the delicious Tibetan barley wine.

Tibetan Qingke LiquorLocal Tibetans welcome guests with Tibetan barley wine

Families in Tibetan villages always keep several large pots of clear liquor, and they serve it when guests or friends visit. You can sample barley wine when visiting a local family in a village, but it's essential not to overindulge. While it has a sweet taste, it can be quite strong, potentially leading to a dreamy state that could disrupt your travel plans.

9. Tibetan Barley Baijiu is The Forget-Worries Drink of Kham Men

In addition to the everyday Tibetan Barley Wine, Qingke barley can also be used to make Baijiu. The production process for Tibean Barley Baijiu (or Qingke Baijiu) is similar to fine wine production on the mainland of China, including fermentation and distillation. After distillation, the new liquor is typically sealed in jars for at least one year or even longer. Aged Tibetan Barley Baijiu has a distinctive aroma and a smooth, mild taste.

Tibetan Barley Baijiu is a beloved beverage among Tibetan men, especially the Kham men, representing their rugged and open-hearted spirit. Nowadays, Tibetan Barley Baijiu has achieved industrialized production and is sold throughout Tibet Autonomous Region and even across the nation. As one of Tibet's signature drinks, Tibetan Barley Baijiu is not only an essential part of local life but also a cultural symbol of Tibet, cherished by tourists and enthusiasts.

Tibetan Barley BaijiuTibetan Qingke white Liquor (Baijiu) looks as crystal as pure water

When visiting Tibet, you'll not only get to savor a wide range of unique beverages but also immerse yourself in the rich culture and heritage. Take a sip of Qingke Baijiu and let its delightful aroma and flavors transport you into the heart of this unique experience.

10. Qingke Beer is the Favorite Beverage Among Tibetan Youngsters

In restaurants and bars in Lhasa, the most popular beverage is not Budweiser or Qingdao, but Qingke beer produced in Tibet. Qingke beer, or Tibetan barley beer, is the only beer in the world made from Tibetan barley. It has a smoother and richer taste, with a long-lasting aftertaste. Additionally, Qingke beer is considered a health drink, helping to lower blood lipids.

As a result, it is not only loved by the local residents but also attracts many tourists who come to taste it. When you visit Tibet, you might as well find various Lhasa bars, sit down, and slowly enjoy a glass of Qingke beer.

taste Qingke beerEnjoy Qingke beer in a local bar in Lhasa city

11. Other Tibetan Highland Specialty Beverages: Highland Grape Wine and Highland Spring Water

With the development of the rural Tibet, Tibetans have begun growing grapes along the Yarlung Tsangpo River, with access to irrigation and ample highland sunlight, producing hundreds of tons of grapes annually.

In Sangri County, a high-altitude grape cultivation base combines grape cultivation, brewing, sales, and tourism. Tourists in Tibet can also purchase locally produced grape wine, adding new varieties to Tibet's winemaking industry. Among these, a wine brand specifically designed for female consumers is known as "Ice Rose," and its grapes come from the rose honey grapevine growing at the foot of Tibetan glaciers.

Tibetan drinking water is extremely pure. Glacier meltwater from mountaintops, after passing through rock filtration, becomes the purest mineral water in the world. Tibet boasts several renowned mineral water brands such as "5100 Tibet Glacier," "Mount Everest Glacier," and "Zhoma Spring." In Tibet, glacier spring water is everywhere, and even in rural areas or during mountain hiking, you may encounter crystal-clear springs that can be scooped up and consumed directly. Taking a sip of pure spring water will surely make you feel refreshed.

Conclusion

Tibetan beverages are diverse, so you don't have to worry about what to drink when you travel to Tibet. While traveling in Tibet, you will have the opportunity to taste a wide variety of specialty beverages, each carrying a rich regional character and cultural heritage. From traditional butter tea, sweet tea, and light tea to the emerging Qingke beer and grape wine, each beverage showcases the Tibetan people's reverence and gratitude towards nature.

Furthermore, in Tibet, you can also appreciate the pure and beautiful gifts that nature has bestowed upon this land, experiencing the purity and richness of Tibet's natural ecological environment through highland yak milk, grapes, and glacier spring water.

Whether you're tasting traditional beverages, trying out Tibetan grape wine and beer, or holding a bowl of butter tea to welcome the sunrise in the morning, every dining experience is an insight into Tibetan culture and nature. Let's set off for Tibet and embark on an enchanting journey to this extraordinary land!

Master Catherine Jigme

About the Author - Master Catherine Jigme

With exceptional passion and outstanding leadership, Mrs. Catherine has dedicated herself to Tibet inbound tourism and China tour for 15 years. As one of the handful females who see great potential of Chinese inbound tourism, Catherine has made great contribution to promoting Tibet tourism and enhancing the employment of Tibetans and prosperity of local Tibetan community.

Over the years, she travelled overseas with Tibet Tourism Bureau many times to promote Tibet tourism. Currently, Catherine works as the marketing director of Tibet Vista, an opinion leader behind the whole team of Tibet Vista.

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