Made from the highland barley, the main food produced in Tibet, Highland barley wine (also called Chiang in Tibet) is the wine favorite to Tibetan people and is a necessary part at festivals, marriage feasts and on some other important occasions.
Method of brewing the wine:
Clean the barley grains quickly (the washing can not take so long a time) before putting them into a large deep pot, pour in water, of which the amount is two thirds that of the grains and cook them. After the barley grains absorb all the water in the pot, burn the fire less brilliantly. Stir the grains with a crabstick so as to cook them fully. Pinch a piece of barley grain to see whether it is soft enough to be pressed flat. Add some water to continue the cooking if the grains are not soft enough. When the grains are 80 percent cooked, take the pot off the fire and cool down the barley for 20 to 30 minutes until after the grains absorb all the water in the pot. Lay open the barley grains on a piece of clean cloth when they are still warm, sprinkle evenly distiller’s yeast on the grains. It is important to make sure that the barley grains are neither too hot nor too cold when sprinkling the yeast. If the barley grains are too hot, the wine will taste bitter. If they are too cold, they cannot be fermented fully. After sprinkling the yeast on the barley grain, put them in a pot, which is then covered with a blanket or other things to keep the pot warm. Generally, two days later in summer, or three days later in winter the barley will be fermented fully. If the temperature is suitable, the pot of barley will smell of wine after only one day.
When Tibetan people toast or drink wine during festivals or on other happy occasions, they use silver flagons and silver cups. People put a little ghee on the mouth of the flagon or the cup as the “pure white decoration”. When the host presents you a cup of wine, you should dip your ring finger in the wine and flick the wine in the air three times to express your respects to the heaven, the earth and the ancestors before sipping the wine. The host will fill the cup, and you take a sip of the wine again. After the host fills your cup for the forth time, you have to bottom it up.
After finishing the meal, the host will toast each of the guests a big bowl of wine, which is called the “after-meal wine”. Guests who drink cannot refuse this wine. Otherwise, the host will make him drink two bowls of wine as a penance. Tibetan people used to use silver bowls to toast the guests. But nowadays they usually use big porcelain bowls.
Tibetans toast each other with songs wishing people well, good health and so on. The person who is being toasted empties their cup when the song is finished.