Phase 1: Posing Real Questions

Updated 6 years 4 months ago

My knowledge on tea to the Bai minority is very limited. I know that the Bai minority is the largest minority group in Dali, Yunnan. Their tea ceremony is one of their most important rituals. It is both a cultural ceremony and a way to welcome guests. I also have heard of the saying 一苦二甜三回味 (First time bitter, second time sweet, third time after taste) and know the direct meaning of the saying. I learned this knowledge from my Chinese teacher a few years ago as well as from the research on the internet. Yunnan is the only place in China in which the environment is suitable for Pu'er Tea to grow. I know this since my parents sometimes discuss Pu'er tea as a tea they drink. Finally, I have read a few articles on the Tea Horse Trail on the National Geographics. I know that the trail plays an important part in the economy of ancient China. It is similar to the SIlk Road, a trail where merchants travel to trade their tea and their horses.

After two weeks of research, I learned an interesting piece of information this week from a tea vendor at Dali Old Town with an extensive knowledge on tea. The tea ceremony is not an "authentic" ceremony that is an important part of the Bai minority tea culture with an extensive history in the culture. It is a something which is merely performed for tourists. I learned that the ceremony was developed in the 1980s from a group of scholars and intellectuals as a way to promote tourism in Yunnan. However, parts of the "authentic" tea practices of the Bai people is incorporated in the tea ceremony and in fact, some Bai people is starting to perform this ceremony for themselves and not just for tourists! Therefore, I've decided to shift my project focus. My project is still on tea culture, but now it is on the evolution of the Bai minority tea culture and what causes this change and evolution. I will still focus on the tea ceremony as a main example of this change and the way it plays into the "real" tea culture of the Bai minority.


Below are the questions I am going to research about - the ones in italics are already answered in Phase 3:




Tea Ceremony:

             -What is the tea ceremony?

            -When is the tea ceremony performed?

            -What is the process of making the tea for the ceremony?

            -What is the meaning of the saying 一苦二甜三回味(First time bitter, second time sweet, third time after taste)

            -What are the steps of the tea ceremony?

            -What do they represent?

            -Why are they performed in this order?

            -What values can be seen in the ceremony?

             -How is the ceremony related to the Bai people’s perspective of tea?

             -When is the tea ceremony created?

             -Why was it created?

             -What areas of authentic Bai minority tea culture are incorporated in the tea ceremony?

             -What are the origins of the tea ceremony?

             -How do the Bai people view the tea ceremony?

             -How can it be that the tea ceremony is so quickly incorporated in Bai minority tea culture?


             -How does tea, as a whole (not just the tea ceremony) play in the daily life of the Bai people? 

             -What is the Bai people’s perspective of tea drinking as a whole?              

             -What is the difference between the authentic tea ceremony and the tea ceremony performed for tourists?


             -What causes the change and evolution of the tea culture of the Bai minority?

Questions to ask to the locals:

              -What changes to your tea practices have happened?

             -When were the changes and why? 






I think this is a great idea! I'm interested in how the tea ceremony is performed too. Maybe you could explore where pu'er tea from here is exported to? Just a thought. Anyways, this looks really good.

Cool idea


Hi Sabrina:)

I think your questions are really well thought of and will get you much information. I think we can share the information we gather since we are exploring the same subject but a different area.

Hi Sabrina, your questions


Hi Sabrina, your questions are numerous and all-encompassing.  I like how you took something that is a visible, tangibile thing in your home and are trying to follow it.  it reminds me of a wonderful National Geographic special on right now called Following the Frankincense Trail where you immerse yourself in one aspect of culture and see how it affects the environment around it.  Hope you get to drink lots of tea!



Hi Sabby! We miss you and Audrey already! (Isabella, Rachel, and I :) My uncle is actually from the Bai minority group, we're not actually blood-related though. 

Hi Sabrina,


Hi Sabrina,

Good luck on your research (it's very interesting hahaha) and have fun!


Bai--tea ceremony


Hi Sabrina!

I've been thinking about you and miss your presence in class.  We all do :-).  But we're so happy you are where you are, and that you have a mind open to what the world has to teach you.  What you have shared brought some things to mind. Some thoughts and questions.  I hope you don't mind my sharing them with you:

First, I'm pretty sure you'll remember from our class discussions that culture is the sum-total of the way of life----the learned behaviors---in a given society.  So, when you say, “Their tea ceremony is one of their most important rituals. It is both a cultural ceremony and a way to welcome guests.” 

What are you saying?

"It is both a cultural ceremony and away to welcome guests"  (this IS culture---just a reminder :-).

Ceremony involves ritual

Perhaps you will want to know

-how many steps are involved?

-why THESE steps? why this order?

-do the steps symbolize anything in the life of the people, or life in general? (is there meaning beyond the “steps”)

-why would a tea ceremony be a way to welcome guests?

--any guest?  Family? From within the Bai people? From outside the Bai people?

Would guests/visitors from any group of people experience the same ceremony?

--what are the values evidenced in the ceremony (what meaning do the gestures have /convey)?

      I recall learning about Tuareg culture of North Africa and their tea ritual:  3 times a day you make tea, each time you drink 3 small cups of tea.  From my limited understanding, I could gather (make assumptions) that stopping 3 times a day when you’re in a caravan lifestyle would be important.  You are in the desert so 3 tiny cups of tea (I assume) is evidence that liquid is a precious commodity. You must rehydrate,  but 3 cups x 3 spreads that precious commodity out. I reckon they get hydrated a few times a day. They drink it slowly. Drinking the hot tea causes them to perspire (and feel a cooling effect).  And it’s a social moment. They interact, converse,talk!   It’s full of value for them.

So with this in mind, what do you think---or wonder—about the Bai tea ceremony?  What might you look for, or ask, to learn this?

Your interest resonnates with my own interests about people.  It's all so amazing.  It's all "interesting," "profound,"

"simple" and "complex" at the same time.   Kind of like humans, yeah.

So. Good luck with this!  Pursue it!  Give your heart and soul to it for these weeks you're in the world.  And keep us posted!



Hi, my name is Sabrina and I'm currently a Sophomore at Shanghai American School. I was in the Alpha Pilot Group of Microcampus two years ago studying Bai minority tea culture. At first, my project was focused on studying minority tea practices, but my focus slowly changed as I realized one of the most interesting aspect of tea culture is the effect tourism has on it today. Please feel free to look through my blog posts and project! The Friends of Xizhou club this year hopes to bring projects related to Microcampus to SAS High School. For the current and future Microcampus group, good luck! You have a short but amazing four weeks ahead of you and there could not be a better place then Xizhou for Microcampus.