Somehow salty tea always reminds me of this saccharine sweet, a-tad-too-sentimental SMS forward: a guy takes a pretty girl on a date and he is so nervous he asks the waiter for salt in his coffee. When she looks askance, he says it reminds him of the saltiness in the sea near his childhood home. The girl is quite touched to hear about his sensitive nature. They fall in love, get married, and he never musters the courage to tell her that he really doesn’t like salt in his coffee. And then one day, he dies, and she finds a letter from him: (copied verbatim from just about everywhere on the internet)“My dearest, please forgive me, forgive my whole life’s lie. This was the only lie I said to you — the salty coffee. Remember the first time we dated? I was so nervous at that time, actually I wanted some sugar, but I said salt. I never thought that could be the start of our communication!”
Long story short, he drank that horrible, horrible coffee for forty years so she would never know the truth. And whenever someone asked her how salty coffee tasted, she would say, “It tastes sweet.” (Aww…) Okay! If you’re still around, and haven’t sworn to never come back here again, while salty coffee may be unheard of, the same cannot be said of its tea version. While no one has (yet) written a saccharine-sweet love story about it, drinking salty butter tea is a much-loved ritual among Tibetans and Kashmiris (who prefer to call it nun chai) . In monasteries dotting the Himalayas, Buddhist lamas down several cups a day through the winters. I remember having a delightful cup of the beverage on a chilly morning years ago, at a monastery in Gangtok, Sikkim. While I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone (it’s a bit of an acquired taste); the warm buttery flavour melting on your tongue, coupled with the startling realisation that tea doesn’t have to be sweet, makes it worth a try.
This morning, I had milk and tea leaves boiling away to high glory when I realised I was clean out of sugar. Hmm, why not try some butter tea?
And here’s my recipe (makes one cup): ¾ cup water, ¼ cup milk, 1 tsp tea leaves, ¼ tsp salt, a few shavings of butter, and a small chunk of Toblerone. (The last item because I thought the tea would need a bit of sweetener, and besides, doesn’t chocolate tea sound awesome?) Bring tea leaves, water and milk to boil on low heat, and when it’s the right shade of golden brown, add the butter, salt and chocolate. (Traditional recipes call for churning the tea with yak butter in a churner/blender.) Give it a swirl, take out your fancy cups, and there you have it, delicious butter tea!