Years ago, when I was in India, I spent some time in the town of Dharamsala. It was a welcome respite from India’s chaos and overstimulation. Situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, Dharamsala is where the Tibetan government in exile is based, and there is a large community of Tibetan refugees who have made the town their home. It was springtime in the foothills of the Himalayas, and it was gorgeous: things were blooming, in the afternoon clouds would gather together in brief thunderstorms, insects buzzed, and the sun was warm in that mountain way – not oppressively hot. But the experience was a complex one: a number of Tibetan students were on a prolonged hunger strike down in Delhi, trying, as they have for years, to bring attention to their situation in Tibet. On the 49th day of the hunger strike, when Indian police moved to halt it on the eve of a visit from Chinese officials, a Tibetan man set himself on fire. It was heavy, and confusing, and most of all, heartbreaking.
Up in Dharamsala, the entire town gathered to attend the funeral procession. There was so much frustration, and grief, and sadness, and that powerful sense of togetherness that comes in the wake of trauma and tragedy. I sat in a crowd of Tibetans, and they gave me incense to burn, and they prayed. Children gathered and repeated om mani padme hum in unison, until they were distracted and fell into play. An old woman with a broad, toothless smile sat next to me while we waited, resting one twitchy hand silently on my leg, and another on the arm of a man next to me.
I had forgotten about much of this until I began to think about traditional yak butter tea, from which the current trend of bulletproof coffee has emerged. I found an old journal from my time there and it was amazing to be reminded of the day. A range of complicated emotions emerged. For the fact that so little has changed for Tibetans in the years since I was there, for the weird nostalgic memories of who I was back then, for the magic of having a journal that remembers moments from my life that I no longer recall. I tried to remember whether I tried yak butter tea – I don’t think I did. I was sort of a half-hearted vegan back then, and much more picky and far less adventurous around food, and it probably sounded too weird. Ah well.
It’s a funny thing when a food shifts from low-resource ingenuity (tea leaves used over and over again with the most easily available calorie source: yak butter) to trendy beverage of privilege, but that’s exactly what happened, and I am fully a part of it. A version of this was recommended to me while I was taking a pause from sugar, and coffee is one of the things that was hardest for me to do without sugar. I had coconut butter on hand, so that’s how I’ve always made it. And I love it. It has kind of revolutionized my morning coffee experience. It has made me triply excited for the ritual every morning – it is like a creamy, fragrant latte, laced with the faintest coconut flavor and a hint of cinnamon or cardamom.
COCONUT BUTTER COFFEE
Yield: 2 servings
A note: I have my own way of brewing coffee, but it is done by sight and feel, not measurement and temperature, so I’m not including any instructions on that. Brew your coffee as you like. This is all about the coconut butter.
16 ounces hot, brewed coffee
2 rounded teaspoons coconut butter
Milk of choice (almond, coconut, and oat have all been used to great effect)
Dash of cinnamon or cardamom
Immersion blender (an upright blender will work too)
Large, wide-mouth mason jar for blending
In a large, wide-mouth mason jar, combine the coffee, coconut butter, milk of choice, and a dash of cinnamon or cardamom if desired. Blend until frothy with an immersion blender. Serve hot.
- 16 ounces hot, brewed coffee
- 2 rounded teaspoons coconut butter
- Milk of choice (almond, coconut, and oat have all been used to great effect)
- Dash of cinnamon or cardamom
- Immersion blender (an upright blender will work too)
- Large, wide-mouth mason jar for blending
- In a large, wide-mouth mason jar, combine the coffee, coconut butter, milk of choice, and a dash of cinnamon or cardamom if desired.
- Blend until frothy with an immersion blender. Serve hot.