Tea came to Tibet from Yunnan in China; it is said that it was first introduced to Tibet in 641 AD as a result of a royal alliance. Instead of adopting the Chinese way of tea drinking, Tibetans found other ways of preparing it which not only provided warmth but also extra nutrition. The tea, called bo-jha or po cha, referred to in the west as ‘butter tea’, can be made in a number of ways.
'Butter tea' is usually made from brick tea; chunks are broken off and toasted over a fire to destroy any infestation by moulds or insects. The tea is then boiled in water for five to ten minutes until dark and strong, and then strained into a wooden or bamboo tea churn. Yak milk, yak butter and salt are added to the tea and the mixture churned vigorously with a stick.
For ceremonial rituals an elaborate and decorative teapot may be used. This magnificent one is made of copper forming the basic structure but it is decorated with silver which has some details picked out in gold gilding.