Monday, October 18, 2010
autumn leaves and butter tea
Autumn has fallen upon us here in Istanbul, and while it has always been my favourite season, I do believe spring is this city's forté. Istanbul autumns are cold and wet, with spectacular grey, boiling skies. The crows and jackdaws come out in full feathered force, scavenging for forgotten walnuts and bits of bread left for pigeons. The city is wrapped in mystery; foggy damp nights, dark streets and a greener-looking Bosphorus. Some people find it miserable, the melancholy overwhelming, but I love it. There's a wonderful poetry to the grey, to the bite of cold on your cheeks. It's the season for tea and scarves, for burrowing into the arms of loved ones, for reading novels to the sound of rain.
As a person who feels cold easily, I'm forever in search of ways to keep warm. When I sipped my first Tibetan butter tea in Nepal this summer, I instantly fell for its thick, salty creaminess and knew I needed a recipe for the bitter Istanbul winter that was around the corner. There's something about the melted butter that keeps you warmer longer than a regular cup of tea, and if you can acquire a taste for the beverage, it's quite pleasing. I had dreamt of drinking po cha in the Himalaya since I was a little girl, and somewhere deep inside my seven year old heart, I knew I already loved it.
So here's a quick and easy way to make po cha, without the yaks and with modern appliances. It tastes pretty close to the yaky original, but milder, and far easier to make. Traditional po cha requires a lengthy process of churning in a vessel called a chandong, but takes mere seconds in a blender.
Boil two cups of water with two heaping tablespoons of loose black tea until you've got a deep, rich colour (I like my tea really strong, so adjust according to your taste buds), strain out the leaves and pour the tea into a blender with a splash of milk and a tablespoon of butter. Add salt to taste, and blend until nice and frothy. Now, this isn't everyone's cup of tea— most Western tongues will reject the notion of a salty, buttery tea, but I highly recommend everyone try a version of po cha at least once in life— it's oh so soothing!