Yak Butter Tea

So, the other day I tweeted that I was in possession of some Instant Yak Butter Tea.

So, yak butter tea. It’s a Tibetan thing. I’ve actually attempted to make something approximating it before, only with cow’s milk, since that was all I could get my hands on. I did have a cake of pu ehr, though, so I didn’t use Lipton (though to be honest if I hadn’t had the pu ehr I wouldn’t have gone with Lipton, I’d have grabbed whatever loose leaf black tea I had on the shelf that I thought would hold up to a long steeping). It was…well, it was not appetizing. Part of that was the salt. Part of it was, I think, the thought that I was drinking butter.

But. When I discovered that I could buy actual Instant Yak Butter Tea, I knew I’d have to get some and try it. I mean, I don’t have the same tea-research needs that I used to, before I finished the Ancillary Trilogy, but I’m generally attracted to foods and drinks I’ve never tried before. And it was entirely likely that my attempt at butter tea was not a good (or even acceptable) example of it.


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The tea is a powder that comes in little packets. Kind of like serbat wangi. (You’ve never had serbat wangi? It’s good! Very sweet, too sweet for me to drink it often, but it’s good. Kind of spicy.) Or like the “chrysanthemum beverage” I found on the shelf near the serbat wangi (but that, I did not like).

There are English instructions on the package, which basically say to dissolve a packet in a cup of hot water. The Yunnan Sourcing page also suggests adding it to a cup of pu ehr tea.

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So, how did it taste? Well. Hmm. It’s…it’s not goaty exactly, because goat milk is a pretty distinctive flavor, but it’s sort of similar. Kind of. Sort of cheesish? Kind of? Which, I like cheese, but I’m still undecided how I feel about cheese in my tea. Or salt. It’s…I don’t know. I really don’t.

Who knows, it may turn out like Marmite did for me. One of my college roommates brought some Marmite back from a trip she took to the UK, way back in, gosh, this would have to have been the very late eighties? And she told me that the first time she encountered Marmite, she picked up the jar, looked at what was in it, smelled it, decided it had gone off, whatever it was, and threw it away. So she would understand if I didn’t like it. She put some on toast and gave it to me. And I was like, “Yeah, wow, I see why you threw this in the trash.”

About a week later I was walking to work and was suddenly struck with a desire to have toast and Marmite. Seriously. It’s delicious. In fact, I think I need to get myself a jar of Marmite soon.

So, maybe next week I’ll be walking along and suddenly just need to have a cup of yak butter tea. But, hmm. Yeah. I don’t know.

9 thoughts on “Yak Butter Tea

  1. mantelli says:

    Global Foods? Olive Farmer’s Market? Jay International?

    1. Ann says:

      Serbat wangi, ginger drink from the same company (very very good) and the mysterious “chrysanthemum beverage” all came from Global Foods.

      The yak butter tea came from Yunnan Sourcing. Which is a great place to get tea, actually.

  2. G
    Grey Walker says:

    Thank you for letting us know! I will… probably skip yak butter tea, myself. But I am going to try serbat wangi. 🙂

  3. J
    Jonathan Edelstein says:

    If you go to Brooklyn, you can get the non-instant variety… not that it’s much better.

  4. Chuck Gatlin says:

    How do you feel about cream in tea? It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch from cream to butter, especially thinking how not all butter is salted. Well, at least butter made from cream from cow’s milk.

    1. Ann says:

      I’ve had cream in tea! Usually when I’ve dined out in the US and ordered hot tea and wanted milk in it–at the time, I was putting milk in pretty much all my tea. And of course, US restaurants assume customers will be drinking coffee, and put out cream (or creamer) and not milk. It’s not my fave, though it’s drinkable. You’re right, of course, that cream is essentially butter, though I wonder how much cream it would take to make the amount of butter in butter tea. You get a fair amount of liquid leftover when you make butter–I bet it’s more. But, yeah, you do have a point, it’s kind of weird to be troubled by the thought of drinking butter when I’d take cream with very little in the way of second thoughts.

  5. J
    JohnSherck says:

    I’ve actually been drinking something that I believe was inspired by yak butter tea on the one hand and by “Bulletproof Coffee” on the other. Bulletproof Coffee is coffee with butter and either coconut oil or MCT oil blended in.

    The tea I regularly drink is a mixture of green tea and yerba mate, though I’ve also used pu-ehr, with Kerrygold butter (I suspect a high-quality butter is important) and coconut oil, plus some powdered ginger (and sometimes turmeric). I use an immersion blender to make it all come together–I would imagine otherwise it would be like tea with an oil slick on top, despite my best stirring efforts.

    By the way, I just finished Ancillary Mercy and greatly enjoyed the series. Thank you for writing it.

  6. R
    Rickilla Landra says:

    Do I like tea? Well, I’m half British and half East Indian, so… when in doubt, I have a cup of tea. And as we all know from the Ancillary Trilogy, tea is what makes the future so grand.

    Yak butter tea: I’ve had this in Dharamsala, India. It was made in the authentic way by Tibetan family friends. Yuk yak! In the interest of diplomacy, I will say that my proper English Mum worked as a volunteer nurse under His Holiness in the early 1960’s and she ate the same food as the (then very poor) Tibetans. She came to appreciate – and even anticipate – her yak butter tea everyday.

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