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What to Drink and Eat When Traveling in Tibet

Beverages and cuisines usually can reflect climates and customs of an area. When you are traveling in Tibet, of course, you want to know more about the local culture and traditions desperately. Therefore, tasting Tibetan food is a good choice for you. Here, I would like to introduce some typical Tibetan food as well as the recipes to you.

Tea----Tibetan butter tea & sweet tea
what to drink and eat inTibetwhat to drink and eat inTibetwhat to drink and eat inTIbet

Tibetan family are drinking butter tea happily

A lama is pouring butter tea to his companions

The hot Tibetan butter tea is ready for drinking

Drinking butter tea(酥油茶, sū yóu chá) is a very typical habit in Tibetan life. It is made from tea leaves, yak butter and salt. There is a saying that if you haven't drank butter tea you’ve never been to Tibet Plateau. For thousands years, in order to fight against the harsh environment , the brave Tibetans had created butter tea culture. As time passes, butter tea becomes an essential beverage in their daily life. You could find it easily in Tibet no matter when and where.

Why you should drink butter tea:

As we all know, it seems impossible for cultivating vegetables in this chilly place. But for sure, people need sufficient nutrition to support vital movement especially in this high altitude area. Then, tea leaves the main ingredient of butter tea makes up for this shortcoming perfectly due to the feature of long-stem storage. According to Tibetans, you have three reasons for drinking butter tea. Firstly, it can relieve altitude sickness; secondly, it can keep chapped lips away from you in the dry climate; thirdly, it is in a good function of keeping out the cold. If this is the first time you drink butter tea, you will feel smelly during the first sip, fragrant in the second sip, but unforgettable after the third sip.

How to drink butter tea in Tibet:

In Tibet, it is an old tradition to treat guests with butter tea. However, you must know Tibetan etiquette before you are invited. Tibetans usually drink butter tea in several sips. When the host or hostess pours a full bowl of butter tea, you could gently blow the showings off and take a sip then make a comment; hospitable host or hostess will refill your bowl after your each sip. So, if you do not want to drink any more, you’d better not touch the bowl until you leave. A polite guest should never drain his bowl.
Besides, butter tea is also served with Tsamba sometimes. In that case, you will be told to dip the Tsamba into it and mix them well.

How to make Tibetan butter tea:

Ingredients: yak butter 150g, salt 5g, brick tea, milk
Materials: a cylinder, tea port with a tight lid, a clean stick
1.Boil brick tea and water together until dark brown, then skim leaves away and pour the concentrate into a clean cylinder;
2. Add yak butter, salt and milk into the cylinder;
3. Use a clean stick to churn for 5 minutes;
4. After that, pour them into the teapot and heat for 1 minute.
5. Tibetan butter tea is ready.    
what to drink and eat inTibetwhat to drink and eat inTibet

A Tibetan madam is making sweet tea

 Tibetans enjoy the breakfast in the teahouse

Apart from Tibetan butter tea, Sweet tea is also very popular in Tibet. It is made from black tea, milk and sugar,a little similar to the western milk tea. If you are not quite sure to accept the flavor of butter tea, you could try sweet tea. It is said that the way of making sweet tea comes from Britain. In old time, drinking sweet tea is a patent for upper class and nobleman. But after democratic reform, it gradually becomes a habit for all Tibetan people. Now, it is a trend in Lhasa.

In short, drinking tea is not only sort of culture in Tibet, but also a necessary part in common people’s life. Once you walk into a Tibetan’s home, you will be severed with a bowl of hot tea which expresses the great respect, no matter you are in farming and stockbreeding area or towns, no matter you are visitors or neighbors.

Alcohol---- Chhaang or Chang (Qingkejiu)
what to drink and eat in Tibetwhat to drink and eat in Tibetwhat to drink and eat in Tibet

unripe highland barley

ripe highland barley

Chang made from highland barley

Chang, Qingkejiu in Chinese, is mainly made from Tibetan highland barley and is the favorite alcohol among Tibetans, man and woman, old and young. From April to August in Tibet lunar calendar, Lhasa people like to have parties in the open air, putting up colorful tents, drinking Chang and dancing. That is the charming alcohol culture of Tibetans.
Chang, known universally as Tibetan beer, is in a light brown color, a little sour but also sweet. It is considered as a requirement to accompany other foods at festivals and weddings.

Why you should drink Chang:

According to Tibetans’ experience, Chang is the best remedy to ward off the severe cold of the mountains. It can improve human’s immunity system and prevent cancers or diabetes. Besides, it has many healing properties for sickness like common cold, fever, allergic rhinitis, etc.

How to drink Chang in Tibet:

There is a joke among Tibetans: if you are not singing a song of toast when you are drinking, it is no difference like donkeys’ drinking water. Therefore, if you want to make a toast, you’d better get your song in your mind unless you are very confident to make up a new song impromptu. After the beautiful song, everybody should drain their cups with one gulp.

How to make Chang:

Ingredients: highland barley, water, yeast
Materials: a jar, a big pan
1. Wash highland barley clean and pour water into them, keep for one day;
2. Put highland barley into the big ban and add water, heat for two hours;
3. Fish out the boiled highland barley and wait until it gets cold;
4. Scatter some yeast on the highland barley and mix them well;
5. Put them into a jar and keep the jar airproof.
6. If the temperature is high enough, fermentation will be completed in two or three days.
7. Then your Chang is ready for tasting.
In order to cater for common people’s taste, Lhasa Beer starts to spring up recently. You will never miss it as well as Chang in Lhasa pubs. 
The Representatives of Tibetan Cuisines:
what to drink and eat in Tibetwhat to drink and eat in Tibet

Selling yak butter, would you like to buy some?

Come on, you will enjoy this Tsamba!


The typical Tibetan food is Tsamba(糌粑,zān bā) which is made from roasted highland barley flour and yak butter. It is the most important staple food for Tibetans, especially in the central part of the region, because it is quite simple to make and convenient to take. To most of Tibetans, Tsamba helps them survive through the harsh climate.
There are two ways to eat Tsamba:
A: put a little yak butter into a bowl, pour some tea and add a big dollop of Tsamba on top of it; then, use your forefinger stir the mixture; finally, knead them and put it into your mouth with hands.
B: Just add lot of tea into roasted highland barley flour, and mix with beef, mutton or potherb. Then a bowl of porridge is done. If you like sweet flavor, just use sugar instead of meat.
Other food:
what to drink and eat in Tibetwhat to drink and eat in Tibetwhat to drink and eat in Tibet

blood sausage

momo--Tibetan dumplings

Tibetan noodles

Where to drink and eat in Tibet?

Tibetan teahouse:
Technically, it is not just a teahouse. Besides serving Tibetan butter tea sand sweet tea, some Tibetan snacks are also available here. Moreover, you could join local people and see how they enjoy their life.
Tibetan pubs:
you could spend your time here to chat with your friends and of course taste Chang and Lhasa beer.
Tibetan restaurant:
If you want to taste the authentic Tibetan food, you can skip other places and just come here. When you are eating, you can enjoy Tibetan dance, too.

Eventually, I hope that you will have a nice trip in Tibet!

Tibet tour packages and tibet travel tips
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