Tibetan tea was helped along by the English colonists of India. Despite the high temperatures and less-than-par living conditions, colonists refused to give up their tea time. Drinkers can still notice the large divide in class when it comes to drinking tea. At trains and stations, the drink is served in clay cups that are shattered after they are used to ensure than no one of a lower caste has drunk from the same cup.
Tibetan tea is not the typical tea that Americans are used to. Rather than imbibe with with sugar, cream and a bit a lemon, shepherds tend to drink their salted tea with a bit of yak’s butter. The tea is served with a flat cake of ground parched barley or corn, mixed with buckwheat that is then kneaded into balls.
The tea, rather than a tea leaf or a tea bag like we are used to, are found in bricks. This is due to the altitude of the mountains and the difficulty of regular tea delivery. The tea is simply broken off and allowed to brew for a few hours.
According to Father E. R Huc, author of Souvenirs d’un voyage dans la Tartarie, le Tibet et la Chine, there are two types of tea ceremonies found in Tibet. One is more for a small group of lamas distributed by a kind pilgrim. The other is the general tea, which can be offered to more than four thousand people gathering for major celebrations. Needless to say, this is highly costly.
Tea is considered a sacred offering, the only place in the world to consider it so. However, it is also a part of general hospitality and should not be readily refused if one wishes to remain polite.
Conducting a Tibetan Tea Ceremony:
The Tibetan tea ceremony, also known as Po-cha, is not as spiritual as the Japanese or Chinese tea ceremonies discussed thus far. Instead, they were more used as a way to keep warm during the harsh winters in the mountains. It is believed that the butter keeps one warm and the hot drink only enhances this property.
Guests are required to drink at least three cups of this tea in order to not be rude. A pot is kept on all day, making it easy to get a hold of this beverage quickly. To avoid any bad luck, bowls that the tea is sipped from must be filled to the brim.