On a recent trip to Leh Ladakh our search for traditional Ladakhi cuisine led us to Alchi Kitchen near the Alchi Monastery. This was where we first tasted Gur Gur cha or butter tea – a drink no Ladakhi household is without. It has an acquired taste and you will be forgiven if you think of it as a soup rather than a tea…but it has many health benefits.
Butter tea or Gur Gur cha or Po cha is a traditional Tibetan tea made by churning yak butter, water, Pemagul black tea leaves and salt into a tasty, nutrient-dense beverage. The tea leaves are repeatedly boiled, sometimes for more than 10 hours until the decoction takes on a very dark color and is called chathang. This is then poured into a traditional tea churn called Chandong or is hand blended along with salt and yak butter. The health benefits of Butter tea are derived from its antioxidant content and the linoleic fatty acids in the yak butter.
Health benefits of Butter tea:
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) or Altitude Sickness often plagues travellers who seek to experience life in the clouds at altitudes above 8000 feet. Symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, loss of appetite, headaches, nausea and vomiting, breathlessness and increased pulse rate. Severe symptoms include chest tightness and constriction, confusion and delirium, decreased consciousness, cyanosis (blue tinged skin). Consuming a cup of butter tea every 3 hours on day 1 of your travel helps you acclimatize faster and prevents AMS.
This beverage helps increase energy levels because of the caffeine it contains, prevents dehydration, moisturizes the skin and prevents chapping of lips in Lehs harsh climate, warms the body, decreases nausea, enhances digestion, reduces hyperacidity, improves muscle strength and immunity, boosts cardiovascular health, improves memory and cognitive function, suppresses appetite and prevents fatigue and lethargy. Its high anti-oxidant content helps reduce the long term risk of dementia, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and the chance of developing osteoporosis. Drinking a cup or two a day can help reduce blood sugar fluctuations in diabetic patients.
Butter tea has a high salt, fat and caffeine content. So if you like the taste and are tempted to drink copious amounts please note that doing so will make you gain weight, increase your blood pressure and your cholesterol levels, give you headaches and acidity, make you more irritable and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Pregnant women and lactating mothers should avoid butter tea.
Stay blessed with good health ….always!!!