Tea has been the most popular drink in China. The art of tea planting, making, and drinking originates from China. In the early of 9th Century, Chinese tea culture was introduced to other countries like Japan, Korea, and the Middle East. Till the 17th Century, Chinese tea was exported to European countries and had become the most important part of Chinese food culture. Mongolian Tea, a unique type of milk tea, is an integral part of Mongolian people’s life. An old saying among Mongolian people goes, “I would rather have no rice for three days, rather than live one day without tea”. For decades, Mongolians have developed drinking teas as a unique habit.
The origin of Mongolian tea was from Mainland China. Chinese tea possesses 2000 years of history. Mongolian people accepted the tea culture from the Han, and developed the culture into a unique Mongolian way. Tea culture is crucial to nomads, in terms of their economic, production industries, as well as daily lives. Tea also developed the food culture as a whole. Nomads in Mongolia had a simple but fragile economy at that time. Due to the fact that the teas were mainly produced in the mainland while Mongolia had sufficient horses, nomadic people relied their economic means and lives heavily on the mutual trade of the teas and the horses with businessman in the mainland. This was particularly evident as people from the mainland were in great need of horses because of ancient wars and the call for boundary security. The trade was important for both sides. They called this trade, the market of tea and horses.
Mongolia has its own wild tea. The species vary. The month of July has been the month of tea-picking-up. These kinds of wild teas are naturally grown in the northern part of Mongolia. Northern Nomads discovered these types of teas and took them as a necessary source for living. Some scholars believe that the production of wild tea and drinking habits was the result of communication of tea cultures between the mainland and Mongolian area.
The most common tea Mongolian people drink is one kind of milk tea, called Mongolian Tea. The ingredients of Mongolian Milk Tea include tea, whole milk, millet, butter, flour, and salt. Influenced by Tibetans during the communication between Mongolians and Tibetans in the late 13th Century, Mongolians started to add butter, flour, millet and salt into the tea. People from some regions love to add some salt into the milk tea to make the flavor stronger, while some do not. The salt would be prepared on the table for others. Those who like to taste salty could add at will. The sodium contained in the salt is believed to do well for the body.
Mongolian Tea preparation differs from regions to regions. Some like to brew the tea, and milk separately first, and then mix the tea, and milk with pan-fried millet. However, some prefer to brew the tea for a while and leave the remainders first, and then brew the tea, milk, and millet together. Usually, Mongolian Tea needs to be brewed before drinking and cannot be drank raw. People add milk into the tea until the liquid becomes the color of coffee.
Mongolian Tea can even be the main dish for their meal. The butter, milk, and millet within the tea are sufficient to give the body enough energy and nutrition. The medical benefits of Mongolian Tea should not be overlooked either. It is believed to relieve pressure and help digestion for the body. It can also lower blood pressure and prevent people from arteriosclerosis.
Mongolians also use the tea to worship their god and the nature. In the early morning, Mongolian people spill the milk tea around the yurt, the bent dwelling structure used by nomads, to worship the god, the sea, and the sky. People may also spill the milk tea on their lovers’ accessories and clothes to show their blessings and wishes. Moreover, people will make toasts with Mongolian tea on festivals like New Year’s Eve. Mongolians treat their tea as a great gift for friends and relatives. It is a symbol for happiness, love, and wealth. On the wedding day, the bride’s family shall organize a family dinner and prepare Mongolian tea and some diary products. This practice presents the wishes for a long-lasting happiness and marriage.