Tibet has a unique tea culture with a history dating back thousands of years. Tea has permeated all aspects of Tibetan customs and is said to be essential for daily life. Tibet is the highest region on Earth, with an average elevation of 14,000ft. Tibetan people have created their own methods of enjoying tea to adapt to harsh climates and high altitudes. It is typical to down several bowls of tea each morning, and continue to consume many more through the day. The most popular forms of Tibetan tea are Yak Butter Tea and a Sweet and Salted Milk Tea. These teas are customary in showing hospitality, and participating in spiritual ritual and festivities. Tea also provides a meal in itself.

Butter tea consists of Puerh tea combined with yak butter, yak milk, and salt. Puerh originates from the neighbouring Yunnan province in China. Puerh is the only tea made using microbial fermentation and provides many health benefits. It is typically pressed into cakes. Tibetans tend to rely on it as an aid for digestion and as a nutritional supplement. In Tibetan medicine, combining butter and tea together is considered to give greater mind-body balance compared to when each is served individually and this tea is particularly supportive of ways of life at high elevations. Yak Butter Tea is a well looked forward to morning ritual - as are frequent afternoon trips to the local teahouse.

Tea is an important way to welcome guests in Tibet. Serving tea is a way to show respect for others and implies friendship. Tea is also seen as a tool to assist in meditation. There are many accompanying customs and practices, many of which stem from Buddhism. Fascinating folklore has stemmed from the days of Ancient Tea Horse Roads which brought steady supplies of fine tea leaves from China.

It is customary to drink tea in separate sips, and after each sip, the host refills the tea bowl to the brim. So the guest never finishes their bowl until they are ready to leave.

Our Teas of the World collection at Westholme includes Puerh, both in loose leaf form and in the traditional brick / cake - like the tea enjoyed in Tibet.

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