The Norden Blog

An intimate look into life on the Tibetan Plateau around the Norden Camp

The Tsampa Mill

It stands in a secluded area by the river, close to the Monastery. We found the door locked and Yidam went to find the man who ran the small operation; grinding barley into tsampa flour from a water mill in the traditional way. The mill, still in its original construction, had belonged to Jamyang Shepa, the head lama of Labrang and for several incarnations, had provided his household and others with freshly ground tsampa. The man in charge had taken up the business four years earlier and said that his main customers were monks, mostly from Labrang monastery. We watched him stand over the river and open the latch, and saw the water rush in, activating the horizontal wheel that stood below the grinding stones.

We ordered our tsampa, for Norden Camp and for ourselves, attentive as he poured the barley seeds into the grinder, the smell of freshly ground tsampa filling the small, dark room and a thin layer of white powder escaping from the stones, the rest into the round wooden tray below. He packed it into sacks labeled as pig feed, apologizing for the lack of packaging. This tsampa will be used at Norden not only as a traditional staple, but also by Norden’s Chef for his innovative recipes on local products called “Tsampa Story”