Here are 3 additions to tea to keep your eyes open for when traveling aboard or here at home at your favorite foreign cuisine restaurant. These are not the sugar, cream or ice that Americans know and love.
1. Yak Butter. This Tibetan addition to tea cannot be duplicated here in the US as yak milk and butter are not to be found in your local grocery store. The closest we can get is using water buffalo milk to make buffalo butter to match this beverage. There are a few water buffalo dairies in the U.S., so if you are ever in Ithaca, New York or Canon City, Colorado, you might want to have a look. Yak milk and buffalo milk have about twice the amount of fat as cows milk, so the butter is more like what American’s think of as soft cheese in consistency. To make yak butter tea, a black tea is steeped several hours and then strained off. Butter and salt are added and the mixture is whipped or churned until the butter melts. It is then left over low heat to keep it warm. When finished drinking, a dash of roasted barley flour is added to the bottom of the cup and rolled into a ball to absorb the last bits of tea and butter and then eaten.
2. Salt. Pakistan has a version of salt tea called Kashmiri Chai. Mongolia has a version called Suutei tsai. Both use a green tea base, milk and salt. The trick to the salt is getting just the right amount. Too much salt and that is all you will taste. The tea is brewed in water and then the milk and salt are added and warmed enough not to have the temperature drop. Both versions typically have the tea steeping for about 10 minutes.
3. Toasted Rice. Any fan of Japanese green tea will recognize this addition. Genmaicha is toasted rice and green tea (Sencha). Unlike our first two additions which are added after brewing, the toasted rice is brewed with the tea and it gives the tea a smooth popcorn smell and flavor. This one is easy to get here in the states, and worth trying at least once to see how it changes the flavor of Sencha.
While these additions are definitely outside the typical American experience with tea, as true tea connoisseur, you are honoring your favorite beverage by experiencing it through the cultures that have consumed tea longer than the U.S. has been in existence.