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Bai's Three-course Tea in Dali

The Bai People value friendship and are hospitable. Guests are often treated with tea when they come to Dali. Local people stress tea quality, tea-making technique and hospitable etiquette, gradually forming "Three-dao Tea". After being standardized, the three-course tea is described as "first bitter, second sweet and third after tasty". The first course is called "Roasting Tea". First, a small pottery pot is warmed on a fire, then green tea is put into the pot. While roasting, the pot is shaken, making the tea to be warm evenly. After 2-3 minutes, the green tea begins turning into yellow, with a smell of burning scent. Boiled water is poured into the pot, letting the tea powder flowing out of the pot. The tea in the pot continues to be boiled on the fire. After that, the tea is poured into teacups. The tea tastes a little bit bitter, but a faint scent. The tea has function of refreshing and quenching one's thirst. The second course is of sweet tea. The heavy tasty tea will be mixed with boiled water, as well as some pieces of walnut, milky fan and brown sugar. Guests can enjoy the sweet and smelling tea by drinking and chewing them. Both Walnut and milky fan have the function of cooling lung and nourishing kidney. The third course of tea is required be cooked with some honey, ginger, Chinese prickly ash and cassia bark. Guests can taste the tea using teacups.

 The Bai people are very hospitable. When a guest or visitor comes to a house, the host will invite him into their main room and serve him with the so-called "three cups of tea." There are two types of "three cups of tea." One is baked tea, which used to serve ordinary guests. The method of making baked tea is: put selected Dayezi tea (a tea with large leaves) or Xiaguantuo tea into a jar, bake and shake it over charcoal fire until the tea leaves turn yellow and fragrance emanates, then pour a small amount of boiled water into the jar. Snow-white tea froths will then overflow the jar and its redolence will rush into your nose. Add a proper amount of boiled water, and then you can pour it into exquisite teacups to serve the guests. In teacups, the tea water looks like amber with crystalline clearness and irresistible redolence. Due to the noise the jar produces when pouring water into the baked jar, it is also called "thundering tea." Since this type of tea is served three times in most cases, people call it "three cups of tea"-"drink the first cup for its fragrance, the second for taste, and the third to quench the thirst."
 
The other sort of "three cups of tea" serves senior guests. The first cup of tea -- "thundering tea" - is made from local bitter tea. The second looks like soup. It is made from brown sugar, milk fan chips, walnuts, chayote, sesame, orange skins, and popcorn. It tastes sweet. The third cup of tea is made by mixing prickly ash, ginger, pine nuts, and Chinese cinnamon with honey and bitter tea. The tea set includes a jar, a porcelain mug, a tray, a copper kettle for making condiments, a small plane, a copper strainer, a spoon, a sugar mug and a condiment tray. The first cup of tea has the symbolic meaning of "To make great achievements, one should not fear hardships." It also shows welcome to the guest. The second cup, the sweet one, means that after all hardships, the sweet will finally come. The third cup is pungent, with a distinct aftertaste. It suggests after going through all kinds of hardships, and enjoying the joys of life, one can recall both bitter and happy experiences. The custom has inherited the traditional tea culture that is unique to the Bai ethnic group and shows the spirit of our age. By showing the wisdom of life-"bitterness, then sweetness, and last aftertaste," it reflects the beauty of Bai culture.
 
With the development of the tourism of Dali, the "three cups of tea" custom as a unique cultural inheritance has generated many new forms of cultural entertainments. Its combination with tourism, singing and dancing has brought out a lot of meaningful and special activities like tea party, tea banquet, and so on so forth. These activities have won the praise and favor of both foreign and domestic visitors.

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