Three Course Tea: Unique tea drinking ceremony practiced by Bai

Who says life is good? It comes with bitterness, then sweet, and you can taste the aftertaste. The three course tea of Bai ethnic group in Dali, is using tea ceremony to metaphor for life. In November 2014, the Three Course Tea of Bai ethnic group is listed among the fourth batch of the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Representative List.

Good mountain and good water nurse good tea. Dali is a true land for tea. According to the book of the aboriginal tribes in ancient China, wrote byTang Yizhuo, has recorded that in Nanzhao era, the ascendant of Bai ethnic group has the custom of tea drinking “cooked with pepper, ginger, and osmanthus fragrans and then drink them. The famous traveler Xu Xiake of Ming Dynasty has received the tea ceremony of Three Course Tea when he arrives at Dali. In his traveling journal, he said “during the ceremony, the first course is clear, the second is salty, and the last one is sweet.” You can see from the Ming Dynasty, the Bai ethnic group in Dali has appreciated tea drinking as an artistic ceremony. Or, you can see as the unique tea drinking ceremony in Bai ethnic group of Dali, the Three Course Tea has become widely spread since then.

You can often find the Three Course Tea on many important occasions of the Bai ethnic group, such as visits of important guests, and wedding. Set up a pot over the firewood, you can cook the tea while chatting. The friendship between the guests and hosts are all shown in the tea.

The process of making Three Course Tea is very strict. There is a saying of “three course”, “6 rules”, and “18 orders”. The first course is the bitter tea, which is also known as the thunder tea. It is the actually the most favorite tea of Bai ethnic group – Baidou baked tea. The tea leaves are baked until they turns slightly yellow. Add the boiled water into it. You can hear the sound of the water in the tea container, which sounds like thunder. This course of tea tastes bitter. The second course of the tea tastes sweet. It added walnut pieces, milk, and brown sugar. Then you add boiled water, it tastes very sweet. The third course is aftertaste tea. Mixed honey with pepper, ginger, cinnamon, then add the tea, it tastes sweet, spicy and numb. The aftertaste is long. The word “spicy” sounds the same with the word “close”, “numb” and “Wealth”. Therefore the third course of tea has the meaning of hoping to stay close and wealth.

The Three Course Tea has the medicine value of cooling the heat and nursing the lung. The three different course of the tea coincident with the philosophy of life “first bitter, then sweet, third aftertaste.” The spirit tea is similar to the three levels that you must go through if you want to become someone or make something big. When you first start your life, it is just like “yesterday, the leaves were blow off the tree by the wind, you climb up to the tower, overseeing all the possible roads in the world”. You can only see the bitterness. It is like the first course of the tea, you don’t know where to start. Until you get to the point where “you are not regretting becoming skinny for doing something.” Now, you have put much effort for career, emotion, and family. You are still running around but you feel sweet. There is still bitterness in the tea, but most of them are the sweetness from the brown sugar. If you chew carefully, you will be surprised by the taste of walnut pieces and milk. When you “suddenly looked around, you find the person you have been searching for a long time is there.” By this time, everything has already settled. When you think about it, all the memories will flood into your mind. Then, you drink the aftertaste tea with cinnamon, honey, and pepper. What a life!

Nowadays, the cruise on the Erhai, Dali has the show of the Three Course Tea that never die out. The tea houses of the Three Course Tea Ceremony in the attractions in Xizhou, Dali is very popular. A small cup of tea has become an industry, creating ten million profits. The government of Dali has attached great emphasize on the development of the health growth of the Three Course Tea. Currently, they are conducting surveys with Dali Cultural and Tourist Department to come up with the plan on how to protect and help the development of the industry, while making the Three Course Tea a new spotlight for the Cultural Industry of Dali.