Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Time for tea: How Tshomin makes her afternoon tea

Now that the days have become colder my family's intake of hot beverages, never skimpy to start with, has steady increased. My sister ( who I will call Tshomin in this blog)  often makes a pot of sweet brewed tea ( or Nga ja) for everyone in the afternoon. Here is a step by step explanation of how she does it. Tshomin repeatedly  told me while I photographed her making tea that this is not the way many other Bhutanese would choose to make the tea. They would prefer it less strong, more milky and far sweeter. That warning aside, I think one of the pleasure of brewing your own pot of tea is that you can modify it to your liking. So here step by step is how Tshomin makes her afternoon tea.
Step one:
She adds gently smashed ( more smushed then really smashed) cinnamon bark and cardamon to a pot of cold water .
Step two
She add loose black tea to the pot. This is her first modification. Many Bhutanese would add powdered ( and sweetened) milk ( the Indian brand everyone uses is called " Everyday")  to the pot at this point, since they want their tea sweet and milky. Tshomin adds more tea and she adds it earlier because she likes her tea darker and stronger.
Step three
Once the tea has had a chance to steep , Tshomin will add the powder milk. She tells me that the milk powder wouldn't mix properly if she just spoons it into the pot, so she uses a cup to help her mix it in.  She adds several spoonfuls of the powder to a cup.
 Step four
Once the tea has started to boil, my sister uses a ladle to pour some of the hot brewing tea into the cup full of mild powder 


 Step five:
She mixes the the tea water and powder milk with a spoon. 
 Step six
She pour the mixture back into the pot of tea and uses the ladle to mix it in.

  Step seven
She uses the cup and the ladle to pour the still mixing tea back and forth several times  to get a good consistency.  

Step eight

She adds just the tiny-est amount of sugar, just a pinch. Here again she differs from  most other Bhutanese who will add several heaped spoonfuls of sugar to their pots of  tea.


Step nine

Now the tea is ready to serve. Tshomin uses a sieve to make sure none of the tea or the cardamon and cinnamon land up in any one's cup.


Since Tshomin protested throughout the process, that her tea was not " typical," I want to point you to this great article in a local paper summing up contemporary tea making and drinking. Despite the "typically" Bhutanese fondness for tea, there is clearly a lot of variety out there.


  1. I just stumbled across your blog yesterday. I have been wanting to learn more about Bhutanese food and culture. I'm really enjoying what I see on your blog, thank you for sharing.

    That being said I was intrigued by the Bhutanese way of serving tea. I know tea is an important part of Bhutanese life but I had no idea how to prepare it so this was a nice introduction. I think I would enjoy Tshomin's tea very much. I don't like a lot of sugar in my tea either. So today I gave it a try and it turned out beautifully and smelled so wonderful while it steeped. Please send Tshomin a big kadrenche for the excellent tea instructions.

  2. Tshomin will be so happy to hear her lesson is of use :-) Thanks so much for the comment , so glad you enjoy the blog!