Travel Guide

Tibetan Highland Barley Wine

Highland barley wine, called “Chang” in Tibetan language, is made of a major agricultural product of Tibet- the highland barley wine. It is has obtained the most popularities of the Tibetan people. Owing to its low alcohol content, highland barley wine is widely enjoyed by almost all people in Tibet, old and young, men and women. On New Year’s Day and other festivals like marriages, giving birth to a child, and usher in and out the guests and relatives, the highland barley wine is a must to entertain guests. The Tibetan people have a long history of brewing barley wine, and especially the Zhongxin town highland barley wine made of Guishan Spring water is the most superior.

 Highland barley wine owns many distinguishing features different from other types of wine. Generally, highland barley wine is mainly originated from Qinghai, Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and other places. And the wine is proper for both men and women since it won’t make people have a headache or feel thirsty and can be sobered up quickly. When it comes to the brewing of highland barley wine, it differs from three aspects. The first one is that the wine is made of highland barley rather than wheat. Secondly, the environment of brewing this wine is of plateau climate. Lastly, when making highland barley wine, Tibetan people commonly use the snow water or natural mineral water which is peculiar to Tibet. In addition, highland barley wine, yak buttered tea and Hada are the typical representatives of the Western Regions Culture. 

There’s no very complicated procedure brewing highland barley wine. In Tibet, almost every family is able to make the wine. Before brewing, pick up the finest barley and clean up, and then soak in water overnight. Later, place it in a large saucepan, add some water and boil for two hours. Then, fish out the boiled barley and air its water vapor. After that, grind the fermented cakes into powders and scatter on the barley and stir up evenly. At the end of the process, you need to sealed storage the barley in the jars. If the temperature is high enough, just one or two days later, you can take out for drinking.

Apart from its good taste, highland barley wine still bears high value of nutrition. Highland barley wine is rich in glucan which attributes to the precaution of colon cancer, cardio cerebrovascular diseases and diabetes. It also possesses the function of enhancing the human immunity and regulating the physiological rhythm at the same time. The dietary fiber content of the highland barley is fifteen times that of wheat, thus the wine has a good effect on defecation and clearing body toxins. The rare nutrients in it can promote the healthy development of human body. Besides, it contains some trace elements such as calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper, zinc, selenium and other mineral elements, among which the selenium is the identified essential element of the human body by the WHO, and is the only recognized anti-cancer element currently.

When you drink the highland barley wine, you may hear some ancient fascinating legends. Each population has its own stories and, in this way, customs are passed on. Here I intend to share with you one beautiful legend of the highland barley wine.

According to the tale, on one day of the ancient times, in order to entertain a King of the human beings on the towering Kunlun Mountains, Queen Mother of the West appointed her ride-a large bluebird to the Penglai Islands of the East Sea to collect delicacy. When flying back, the bluebird dropped a fairy thing out of its mouth at the foot of the Dragon King Mountain accidentally. Soon, the thing took root there and quickly outgrew fields of green wheat. Year after year with a good harvest, it raised generations of highland children. Years later, people called it barley for the big bluebird dropped it there and bred them up.

One day, the Eight Immortals traveling around the world returned from the peach banquet and were allured to a small town by the rippling sea of highland barley, seeing an old woman next to an ancient well was benevolently providing tea for passers-by. The Eight Immortals hence disguised as beggars for tea. So the old woman offered them tea, and when they sipped a little, the tea tasted uncommonly fresh and sweet. After took a look at the mouth of this well, they found the source of the well is a gush divine water from the Black Dragon Spring of the Dragon King Mount.

In return for the old woman’s kindness, one of the immortals opened his treasure gourd, poured the wonderland fairy wine gifted by the Queen Mother of the West to the well and told the woman that using the well water to brew wine wound enable her the richest and well-known in the world. With that, the immortals turned into a breeze and left there. At first, the old woman didn’t believe the immortals. Later, she tasted the water, fully appreciated its delicate fragrance and its aromas and felt refreshing. Thereupon, this woman built a small distillery to brew the highland barley wine.