Four cups of coffee solves a lot of problems. Tea also works. Chocolate milk works too. I've used water a few times, even beer, I'll admit. But four cups is the key. I can't say where it originated, but I first learned of it in the mountains of Nepal around the Annapurna region.
The first cup meets you at the door of the teahouse and brings you in. A sign of hospitality from the hosts, but it also a sign of gratitude to drink it. The first cup of tea warms you and puts solid ground beneath your feet. From there you introduce yourself to the other travellers, get settled, maybe unpack a little, and reconvene once everything is calm enough for the second cup.
This cup is where information flows thick and fast with humour and camaraderie close behind. Weather conditions up on the pass are discussed, the price of clothes in the village, lost friends, but also town gossip and wacky new rumours. People begin to open up, sharing where they've been and where they're going.
The third cup follows shortly, with either the announcement or the serving of dinner. It is with this cup that things start to look inward. Routes for the next day are decided, and with them groups. Who will you go with, and how do you want to get wherever you decide to go? Everyone must see the others not just as friends but as potential allies, and market themselves as potential assets. Groups and routes established, and dinner finished, everyone is ready to retire into the fourth cup.
This cup is the final, yet also first cup. From this cup flow all the other cups that will be poured until late into the night. Over that fourth cup (and the ones that follow it), the mysteries of the universe are picked at by curious minds. Talking about philosophy or the weather or sports or even nothing at all, these cups are shared in the good spirit of the many that are sure to come after.