Tibetan Tea Culture

  • Tea to Tibetans Just As Coffee to Westerners

To the Tibetans, tea is a beverage that is just like coffee to the westerners - a wake-up and a shake-up drink that keeps almost everyone sound and safe.

In Tibet no morning can pass without drinking some tea, usually the sweet tea; and also in Tibet no meal can be complete without some tea, almost all the time the Tibetan buttered tea.

The sweet tea, prepared by mixing milk and sugar with the juice from fully boiled fermented tea leaves, serves as the refreshener.

Town folks prefer to go to a tea house before going to work for the rest of their day. Tea houses sometimes stand as alternative places to find the ones who are otherwise expected in their workplace in the morning and in the early afternoon.

The Tibetan buttered tea is prepared by mixing butter and salt with the juice from fully boiled fermented tea leaves. Before serving, the mixture has to be further blended in a special blender.

More often than not, a slim wooden cylinder is used for the blending. After the mixture is put in the cylinder, a piston is used to push and pull inside the cylinder. With the passing of the mixture through the slit between the piston and the cylinder, the mixture of butter, salt and tea is forcefully and thoroughly blended.

In Tibet, tea, either sweet tea or Tibetan buttered tea, is served in small or large thermo flasks, in that both are of their best smack when served hot.

The local habit of drinking tea has to do with the local food composition. The Tibetans eat lots of meat of yak and goat. The strong buttered tea not only helps to keep the body warm but also helps to promote the digestion of the meat that is taken almost three meals a day and 365 days a year.

Local sayings have it that the others cannot do without salt whereas the Tibetans cannot do without either salt or tea.

  • Tea to Lamas

Tea is considered essential by all Tibetans, lamas included. Every morning, lamas attend a morning mass held under the aegis of the sutra teacher. This is followed the consumption of buttered tea and a roasted highland barley dish known as zanba. At noon, they gather in the sutra hall of the Buddhist school of the monastery to pray and recite Buddhist scriptures while drinking tea. This ceremony is much the same as the morning mass, but is held on a smaller scale. In the evening, lamas gather in Khang-tshan organized according to where they are located to pray and drink tea in a fairly informal setting. In Tibetan this is called Kamqa.

It is very common for benefactors to visit monasteries, where they offer tea porridge to lamas while presenting them with the names of the Buddhist scriptures they wish the lamas to recite for them. There are also senior lamas studying for Geshi, a Buddhist academic degree equivalent to a Ph.D, who also offer tea porridge to the lamas of the whole monastery.

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