We learned that tea is called the â€œwater of long life.â€ Red-tinged tea, symbolizing good luck is served at festive occasions. Young men and women traditionally exchanged gifts of tea when they announced their engagement. In Tibetan monasteries, novices are responsible for preparing tea and serving it to monks while they pray. Lamas hold a morning prayer ceremony at which tsampa (roasted barley), is mixed with the tea to make gruel. This porridge is sanctified and served as a holy â€œtea offering.â€
Tea is still drunk with every meal and enjoyed as comfort food at any time. Once upon a time, people carried a personal tea cup with them wherever they went. The cup was a wooden bowl, but our hosts were proud of their Western-style ceramic cups. Etiquette suggests that guests sip only half the tea in their cups leaving the rest to signal the host that they would like more. It is still considered hospitable to top off visitorsâ€™ cups every time they take a sip.
After tea we were generously invited to take a closer look at our hostsâ€™ home which included an entire room set up as a religious shrine complete with holy images and butter lamps. The family embodied the Buddhist precepts of patience, compassion and respect for all forms of life as they patiently posed for numerous photos and answered the groupâ€™s many questions. The only question left un-answered is when can I go back for bocha?