What exactly is a tea house? I asked myself as I trekked through the Khumbu Valley in Nepal. I very quickly learned to look forward to the Tea Houses visits along the route to the Base of Everest. So many people ask me about the tea. How is it? What’s it like? What was your favorite flavor? I learned quickly that it really wasn’t about the tea but about the Nepalese culture.
Almost all teahouses in Nepal began as family-run ventures, providing food, lodging and of course tea, for the weary trekker. One tea house stayed with me through out my trek in the valley: Hotel Countryside in Dingboche. Run by Ang Norba, she is 29 and has a 5 year old son, and her cook, Sapana Rai, who is 25 years old. Teahouse trekking is becoming increasingly popular.Staying in teahouses allows you to travel extremely lightly (a massive bonus if you are looking to cover long distances during the day or don’t fancy a life time of back ache brought on by that Everest-sized rucksack)!
The food was fresh and prepared at the teahouse. A local favorite is the momo, which is a traditional delicacy in Nepal. A momo is similar to that of a dumpling. Sapana Rai rolls the dough very thin, with the meat filling (usually water buffalo meat or chicken) is placed in the center. The momo is then shaped around the filling and sealed into small moon shaped pockets. Eating the momo’s is an enjoyable affair. Family, friends and relatives often gather to spend a joyful leisurely time together enjoying all the aromatic fresh flavors. We had some great laughs and conversations around momos throughout our teahouse trek.
Teahouses vary slightly from region to region, but most are simple stone and wooden buildings or huts that have a kitchen, a communal eating hall and bathroom area, and a number of basic bedrooms that usually have two single beds and a table. These traditional establishments not only provide you with a convenient watering hole and a place to lay your head, but are also a great way to get to know Nepalese culture.
To me it, the best part of teahouse trekking was being greeted by a warm smile of a new friend. It was as if we were invited into their homes for a rest, to get warm, and yes have a cup of tea. Lemon tea was often the favorite.Tea houses were a place where you could meet and chat with other trekkers, play cards or share stories of your experience so far. In our ever growing world of technology it was very refreshing to sit and actually talk without someone looking at a device of some sort. There was usually a pot belly stove in the middle of the room where the Nepalese would use yak dung to heat the room.
Staying in the teahouses gave me a chance to get to know locals in a way that is rarely possible en route to the Base of Everest. I will be going back to lead a Cultural Immersion trek combined with photography workshops and yoga to the Base of Everest April 11-25 2018.