Sunday, March 4, 2012

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Hot Buttered...Tea?

Three months in, we’re still learning the quirks of our new home. The old Craftsman house is built over a slope that levels out into a deep back yard. Unlike any other place — every place, in fact — I’ve ever lived, there’s a crawlspace underneath. Towards the back of the house, right where the lot evens out, there’s so much clearance under the floorboards that, if I stoop just a bit, I can almost walk comfortably. This means we have decent storage for lawn equipment, surf boards, paint buckets, and like that.

It also means, with all that circulating air right under our feet, that the mornings at the new digs are cold as hell. Daytime, it’s still warm enough for shorts in winter here in San Diego, so I’m not complaining. Well, not much, anyway. But I wake before dawn most days when the house is coldest. On these bracing mornings, it’s big, flannel shirts for me, thick socks, multiple layers, and tea: plenty of hot tea.

As I mentioned, tea alone is a thin fuel, so when I stumbled across the cream-bolstered, buttered tea from Tibet known as pocha, I decided to give it a go. Nate Tate writes about his experience with the stuff in Feeding the Dragon:
"He [drink],"Tenzin said, handing me a chipped ceramic bowl filled with warm butter tea, called pocha. I was tired and sore from days of trekking in the high mountains, and the buttery tea soothed my parched throat and the bowl warmed my cold hands. Tibetans drink dozens of cups of this restorative butter tea a day. Not only does it quench thirst but it is also a satisfying drink packed with energy to sustain people throughout the day.
It’s not my everyday tea, and I’ll ditch it once we’re clear of the worst of our winter storms, but with the sun just starting to peek through the shutters and no one — not even the cat — yet stirring, it’s just the thing to stave off the frigid morning air. In Tibet, you're likely to find this tea made with yak's milk. You'll forgive me, I hope, if I stick with cream. There's only so much authenticity I care to tackle at six in the morning.
Tibetan Butter Tea
Serves 4

4 cups water
1 heaping Tbl loose black tea
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbl unsalted butter
2/3 cup half-and-half

Combine the water and tea in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, and then turn off the heat and let steep for 5 minutes. Use a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to strain the liquid over a large bowl; discard the tea leaves. Transfer the liquid back to the saucepan and bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to a simmer. Add the salt, sugar, butter, and half-and-half and whisk until the butter has completely dissolved and a little foam forms on the surface. Serve the tea in small bowls.

Mary Kate Tate and Nate Tate (2011)
Feeding the Dragon: A Culinary Travelogue Through China with Recipes
304 pages (paperback)
Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN: 1449401112

Goes well with:
  • Iced tea. It's my quotidian quaff, my everyday guzzler. Here's how I make the stuff by the gallon.
  • Buttered tea is not so far from the spiced masala chai (well, you know, ditch the butter, add the spices) I tend to make by the quart and keep in a Thermos to warm me on mornings like this.
  • Nasty. An iced tea encounter prompt me to ponder the approaches of two businessmen and what the most vile things I've eaten may be.

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