At least a millennia and a half ago, somewhere around 700 A.D.,Tibetans in the foothills of the Himalayas were enjoying tea, likely even before it was “introduced” to the court of the Tibetan King Chidusongzan by an emissary of the Chinese Emperor Dezong sometime in the late 600s.
Somewhere further up the slopes, Namdol and Tenzin were huddled up in a yak wool tent, looking for a way to stave off the encroaching bitter cold sweeping down from the mountains.
“Tenzin,” Namdol said, as he stirred a pot of boiling cha, “we’ve been herding these yaks all over the mountainside, and now I’m starving and freezing my guthuks off – what do we have to eat?”
“Not much” Tenizn lamented. “Three sticks of yak jerky, and some yak butter.”
“Ahh, I’m so sick of that jerky. For weeks that’s all we’ve been eating. And frankly, I’m pretty certain that the last piece you gave me was part of the door for the tent,”
“Bakthuk!” Tenzin spat with irritation. “It most certainly was not,”
“I’m sure it was,” Namdol protested. “Look at the door. There is a hole in it, the exact same size and shape of the piece of jerky I ate yesterday.”
Tenzin huffed. “Well, then there’s the yak butter…”
“Give it here.” Namdol reached out without even glancing at Tenzin, who pulled a large slab of butter from his pack, and sniffed at it.
“I think it might have gone rancid,” said Tenzin.
“Let me see.” Namdol swiped up a large dollop with his finger and popped it in his mouth. “This is barely rancid,” he declared.
“How can it be barely rancid,” Tenzin said, grouchy with hunger. “It’s either rancid, or not rancid. It’s not some sort of sliding sca… are you putting that in the tea?!”
Indeed, Namdol had dumped the entire slab of rancid yak butter into the boiling cha, and began stirring and whipping the mixture up into a froth. He scooped a cup out for each of them, and offered one to Tenzing.
“Drink,” he declared, “it’s either this, or another piece of tent.”
And so they drank, and marveled at how soon they felt warm, restored, and reinvigorated. The sweet, quenching and deeply satisfying po cha was indeed a miracle, and has since become the national beverage of Tibet.
In a quite unrelated development, about 300 years later, Ethiopians began mixing goat butter into their coffee, in a traditional coffee ceremony that continues to this day, whether to welcome visitors, mark various festivities, or simply as a part of every day life.
For over a thousand years, the tradition of coffee or tea mixed with butter made from the milk of pasture-raised animals has been a nourishing staple of at least two otherwise very disparate cultures half a world apart from each other. We continue that tradition today, with fatCoffee.
In the early 1700s, as the first European settlers began to arrive in Lancaster County, PA, agriculture thrived in what was then – and is still today – the most fertile, non-irrigated soil in the U.S.
Heritage breed cattle are raised here on open pasture, on farms and cooperatives that practice sustainable, organic, pesticide-free farming techniques which mirror those of their ancestors, down to the horse- and mule-drawn plows.
A truly great cup of butter coffee begins with truly great butter. And for that, we need cows which are raised in a manner that makes the most of their natural ability to produce milk rich in essential nutrients like Vitamin K2, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), Vitamin D and calcium.
We never expected to to find what we were looking for so close to home.
The cows raised by the farmers of Oasis at Bird in Hand feed their cattle only on organic pasture and, in the winter months, on organic hay and haylage (grass that’s been dried, and then mixed with water.)
It is hard to overstate how rare this is. No commercially-available butter, save from what you may be lucky to find at a local farmer’s market, comes close to being made from the milk of cows who are 100% grass-fed. Even Kerrygold butter is made from cows that are grass-fed only “up to 312 days per year.”