Maria Kamandzhaeva, Tea Ceremony

Change log
Terbish, Baasanjav 
Churyumova, Elvira 

Maria talks about Kalmyk tea, its recipe, and related rituals and beliefs. Recipe: Put water into a pan and add tea. When the water boils, add milk and stir. Then add butter and keep on stirring clock-wise. The longer one stirs, the more delicious the tea becomes. Afterwards, add nutmeg, which is cut in small pieces, and stir again. When the tea is ready, sprinkle a spoonful as libation. How to perform a tea sprinkling ritual: Open the door of your house, put your right leg outside (while your left leg is still inside the house) and sprinkle 3 times to the roof as an offering to ancestors and gods. After the sprinkling ritual, the first part of the fresh, hot tea (deezh) has to be poured into a small cup and put either on the altar or at the corner of the table where people eat. This cup with tea should not be left overnight, but given to children to drink. If there are no children around, grown-ups may also drink it. After this ritual, you can enjoy your tea. How to correctly pour tea into a cup: The amount of tea poured into a cup should be neither full up nor half full. Since it is a bad omen to pour tea on the ground, the tea cup should not be full in order to prevent the contents from spilling out. The person who receives a cup of tea should touch the tea with his/her right middle finger and sprinkle 3 times to the air. Tea is first offered to elderly men who utter well-wishes. An example of a well-wish: ‘Let the tea become thick/ And become an offering to the gods/ For us, who partake of it, let it become like an elixir/ Let the sky bestow long years and happiness upon us!’ How to correctly hold a cup: Ordinary people should hold a cup of tea in their right hand with 4 fingers supporting it from underneath; the thumb should support the cup from the side. Lamas, by contrast, should hold a cup with all five fingers from the bottom. Before drinking tea, be it at breakfast, a funeral, a wedding or during holidays, it is customary to utter well-wishes. In the past, tea was made from tea blocks, but today from various tea bags. Tea blocks were kept in special bags made from calf’s skin. The amount that was needed for tea was cut with a knife from the block, and then the block was put back in the bag. What was left from drinking tea was never thrown away. In times of scarcity and hunger, people ate it. Also, since it was women’s duty, girls were taught how to make tea from young age. After their wedding, the first thing that Kalmyk brides did was to cook tea for their husbands’ relatives. After this ritual, the brides were given new names to signify their acceptance to the new family. Kalmyks always offer fresh, hot tea to their guests. According to the old Kalmyk custom, there are 3 things that people should share with others with open heart, including tea, salt, and water. Those who do not follow this custom, put their children at risk (from divine wrath). Kalmyk tea also has medicinal properties. It gives strength and energy not only to people but to animals as well. For example, in winter, sick livestock are treated by giving them black tea to drink. Maria ends her interview with a well-wish as follows: ‘Let tea and milk be always in plenty/ Let all our deeds be fulfilled/ Let all people who drink tea live long/ Let people be healthy around the year/ Let them live happily with their children, families, and livestock/ Let the heavens bless us all!’

Tea, ceremony, recipe, custom
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Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.