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Yak Butter Tea Is a Nutritious Morning Staple in Tibet

People in Tibet are known for drinking Yak butter tea, early and often.

The traditional drink helps to keep people warm amid freezing temperatures at night and in the morning. Because of the high altitudes, the air is thinner and colder.

“Nomadic people drink it because they’re outside a lot and it keeps them warm,” Tibet resident Jamin ‘Lobsang’ York told Eater. “It gives them energy, fat, and calories.”

The drink is simple—it is typically composed of Yak milk, tea, and butter.

However, because of the high price of butter, some poorer people opt to drink the tea without butter, but with more salt.

Selena Ahmed, an ethnobotanist, told Eater that the combination of butter and tea is believed to give a good mind-body balance, while the tea used, typically pu-erh, helps strengthen the body’s blood, muscle, and fat, among other areas.

“The antioxidant attributes from the catechin compounds in tea are regarded to provide an adaptive strategy to cope and buffer the stress of high altitude,” she said. “Caffeine, the key central nervous system stimulant methylxanthine in tea, further provides energy for grazing, farming, meditating, trekking, pilgrimage, and other daily activities.”