The ingredients are simple- tea leaves, yak butter, water and salt. Churned and served boiling hot, often with tsampa. Savory and salty. Not quite like a tea, and more like a strange soup. Cannot think of it as tea. It'll be so weird.
Yak butter milk tea.
The butter has to be yak. A cow's will taste slightly less dense. I understand the etiquette and will fulfill the minimum requirements when the hosts offer me a cup. Even in today's less nomadic culture, it still means quite a bit to the hosts if I drink it. But not too much in a mouthful although small sip can be considered rude. The cup isn't allowed to go empty at all while in my possession.
Never acquired a fondness for it. How does one drink melted butter? It's just something I will sip and sometimes welcome it for the heat after a day out in the cold. All these years of traveling, whenever etiquette permits, I've deftly avoided drinking copious amounts of yak butter milk tea in all regions of Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia and Yunnan.
Now in Zhongdian, one strange day, I suddenly realized that it tasted different. It was an extra windy cold rainy afternoon. This is different sort of traveling purpose from the rest of the trips. But not much difference in intent, and also comfortable chilling out with a group of friends I know well. That afternoon, sitting by the roaring fire with the laughter and warmth of friends and villagers, to my mild horror and amusement, it tasted...almost delicious.