The Origin and Social Function of Sweet Tea
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The Origin and Social Function of Sweet Tea

Update: Jun. 19th, 2012

tibetan drinks

In the mysterious Tibet, there is a popular saying about one of Tibetan drinks: “we would like to live without three meals rather than live without tea.” Here the “tea” refers to buttered tea. While what we would talk about in the article is sweet tea. Drinking tea is a tradition for Tibetan people and it is not only a drink for Tibetan people.

The Origin of Sweet Tea

Sweet tea houses scattered like stars in Lhasa region. Around the Jokhang Temple and nameless alleys, you can find many sweet tea houses everywhere. People come and go to the sweet tea houses in an endless stream. In fact, sweet tea is an imported good. About the origin of sweet tea, there are two sayings. One says that the Tibetan people formed the habit of drinking sweet tea about two hundred years ago, which brought by British army. Another saying is that during the times of Yongzheng, the the Hui people fled from calamity and come to tibet. The leader of the Tibetan king constructed mosques for them. They began to do business of sweet tea for living.

Social Function of Sweet Tea

In the whole region of tibet, especially in Lhasa, you can find many sweet tea houses. The distribution of the tea houses has some characteristics. It often locates around the temples and monasteries. Take Lhasa for example, the sweet tea houses are densely distributed around Jokhang Temple and Ramoche Temple. Every year people come to Lhasa for pilgrimage from far and near gathered here. They circle around Jokhang Temple and Romoche Temple and praying. They need to find places to have a break after the pilgrimage. So gradually more and more people settled nearby and sweet tea houses occur. Another function of sweet tea house is to offer a place for communication. The people who come to the sweet tea house are often of several certain groups. Even they do not drink much sweet tea; they will come frequently at the appointed time. The one who first come to the sweet tea house will save seats for the companions. They will talk with each other, exchange information and ideas. Sweet tea has become the necessity of Tibetan people.

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