MIR Moment: Sipping Tea in a Mongolian Ger

MIR Moment: Sipping Tea in a Mongolian Ger

Meaghan Samuels traveled with MIR as an Assistant Tour Manager on the Mongolia to Moscow: A Trans-Siberian Railway Adventure small group tour in 2011.  In Mongolia, she had a wonderful opportunity to experience ger life up close, including this treasured memory of sipping tea with a Mongolian family in their traditional ger.

Meaghan Samuels horseback riding at Gorkhi-Terelj National Park<br>Photo credit: Meaghan Samuels

Meaghan Samuels horseback riding at Gorkhi-Terelj National Park
Photo credit: Meaghan Samuels

One afternoon on the steppe we walked down to a traditional nomadic ger, which was set up just outside of the main ger complex at Gorki Terelj National Park in Mongolia where we were staying.  The family who lives in this particular ger was at one time a nomadic family.  However, now that their children are grown and have left home the couple lives here on a semi-permanent basis for roughly half the year, and spends the other half in nearby Ulaanbaatar.  Luckily for us we were visiting during their time spent at the ger.

A Welcoming HomeAs they welcomed us all into their home, the husband stepped out to make room for our group while his wife greeted us all as we entered.  The ger was brightly decorated in oranges, reds and pinks, and our entire group of nine was able to be seated comfortably inside.

Once we were all settled, our hostess began to pour tea for each person into lovely floral teacups.  Suutei tsai, which translates to “tea with milk,” is the traditional Mongolian tea with milk and salt.  Ours was made of a black tea, although there are variations made with other types of tea, such as green tea.

Inside the traditional nomadic <I>ger</i> at Gorkhi Terelj National Park<br>Photo credit: Meaghan Samuels

Inside the traditional nomadic ger at Gorkhi Terelj National Park
Photo credit: Meaghan Samuels

Tea TraditionsIn Mongolian etiquette, it is polite to offer tea with your right hand or with both hands, as well as to receive with the right hand or with both hands.  It is considered impolite to offer or receive any kind of drink with the left hand.  Often, when something is received or offered with the right hand, it is common to touch your left hand to your right elbow.  Once the tea is in your possession, the cup should be held by the bottom rather than by the rim.

It is also considered polite to offer candy or a small snack with the tea.  Once we had all received a cup, our hostess passed around several varieties of the traditional Mongolian dried cheese curds, or aaruul.  The dried cheese curd is made from drained sour milk or yogurt curds.  The solid bits that result after the milk or yogurt is allowed to curdle are lifted from the liquid and then packed down and formed into a sort of cake before being dried in the sun.

One bowl contained aaruul cut into strips, another into clumpy curd chunks and yet another into balls.  Some aaruul is sweet, while some is a combination of sweet and sour.  The dried curds are usually very hard, so many people let them melt in the mouth rather than trying to chew them.  Aaruul is said to have a lot of calcium, and the Mongolians even have a saying that “if you eat aaruul you will never have to visit the dentist.”

Nomadic <i>gers</i>, Gorkhi Terelj National Park<br>Photo credit: Meaghan Samuels

Gers at Gorkhi Terelj National Park
Photo credit: Meaghan Samuels

Mongolian MemoriesAs we enjoyed our tea sipping experience in this beautiful setting, our translator helped out, since many of us had questions for our hosts about life in the ger.  We discovered during our conversation that several of our hosts’ children were in fact attending universities in the United States somewhere in the Midwest.

Once we all finished our tea, we thanked our hosts profusely and then were led back outside where there were about a half dozen horses tied up.  We were offered a ride on the horses, which many of us were eager to accept.  The landscape in the park is absolutely gorgeous, and what better way to leisurely take a look around than from the back of a Mongolian horse!

Travel to Mongolia with MIRYou can travel on MIR’s scheduled tours to Mongolia, learning about its history, culture, and traditions, such as sipping tea in a ger. You can also book a custom private journey.

 (Top photo credit: Kelly Tissier)

PUBLISHED: December 2, 2014

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