Tea; fine darjeeling,Sri Lankan orange pekoe or the CTC dust boiled many times over, those who love it can’t live without it.I am used to my daily dose and some more of Assam tea not the leaf kinds more the twinnings tea bag types, however this summer on my trip to Ladakh the very definition of tea was changed forever.
Ladakh is a gorgeous place with its long winding roads and a landscape that seems more martian than of this earth. We were driving along these other worldly roads, surrounded by Stupas when the Thiksey Monastery emerged, a terraced structure painted in hues of white, red and ochre. As you walk up the stairs you are surrounded by the mountains, prayer wheels, the sonorous chanting and a strange kind of peace. While we sat and watched the monks pray, a little monk came along with a chai ki ketli to offer us tea. Our bodies crying out for anything warm, the first sip is a warm, buttery, surprise. A salty taste swirls through your mouth and the mouthful literally slides down your throat surprising your senses. This is tea?
The tea color spanned the entire spectrum from pink to yellow, a factor of how much yak butter was added to the brew.The cooking process is fairly intricate, with the tea being boiled and then the yak butter and salt added in special churns.
Ladakhis have close to 40 cups of this concoction everyday, and looking around the monks were topping their cup many times over. The ladakhi custom is to top the cup after each sip and not doing so is considered a slight.
Few sips later, I was up for some more of the salty tea, a taste of the sea high up in the Himalayas. As they would say in Ladhak “goor goor anyone?”
Keya Bhatt, is a travel enthusiast and a student.