Making  Vietnamese Tea

Unveiling the Richness of Vietnamese Tea Culture

Apr 30, 2024

Shanika Dasanayaka

Embark on a journey through the vibrant tapestry of Vietnamese Tea Culture, exploring the customs and traditions of a nation deeply intertwined with the art of tea.

Despite its modest size in Southeast Asia, Vietnam boasts a formidable tea industry, ranking as the world's 7th largest tea producer and 5th largest exporter. Rooted in a heritage spanning over three millennia, Vietnamese tea culture thrives as an integral facet of daily life, celebrated during family gatherings, meetings, and festivities alike. Join us as we delve deeper into the captivating world of Vietnamese tea culture.

The Essence of Vietnamese Tea Culture

Tea holds a profound significance within Vietnamese culture, with a history dating back some 4000 years. Originating during the Hung Kings dynasty, Vietnamese Tea Culture flourished across two primary regions: the Fresh tea area of Kinh households nestled along river deltas, and the Forest tea area cultivated by ethnic minorities such as the Dao, Mong, and Tay in the Northern mountainous region. In the 1890s, The Chaffanjon Trading company had the first tea plantation with an area of 60 hectares. Afterwards, in 1918, The Phu Tho Agricultural Research Station was initiated with the purpose of providing services related to tea research and developments. 

Today, Vietnam boasts a tea yield of nearly 95 quintals per hectare, spanning 34 tea-growing provinces nationwide.

Tea  From Home to Field

For Vietnamese people, tea transcends mere refreshment; it embodies a cherished daily ritual. Rising each morning, they partake in the age-old tradition of brewing tea, an indispensable habit woven into the fabric of their lives. Whether toiling in the fields or gathering for leisure, tea accompanies them throughout the day, offering solace and fortification against ailments like influenza and diarrhea. Green tea is the type of tea mostly consumed in the countryside. They offer green teas for their guests with a cleaned tea-set and by checking the standard heat of the water, as they consider the comfort of guests. 

Vintage Tea Culture

The specialty of Vietnamese tea culture is that they appreciate plain tea. Unlike the elaborate customs of Japanese or Chinese tea ceremonies, Vietnamese tea aficionados cherish the unadorned purity of their brews. A famous Vietnamese poet also wrote, “Do not drink flower scented tea; otherwise, the real tea aroma will be lost.”. When it comes to Japanese or Chinese tea cultures, they are quite complicated, as they drink mixed type tea and herbal teas with much importance. 

Types of Vietnam Tea

Vietnamese teas boast an array of scents and flavors, each a testament to the country's diverse growing regions. Noteworthy among these are:

Green Tea (Trà Xanh)

Crafted through pan-frying techniques, Vietnamese green tea exudes a bold flavor with subtle hints of bitterness and sweetness. Varieties such as Tan Cuong green tea from the Thai Nguyen region captivate with their golden hue and honey-like richness.

Oolong Tea (Trà Ô Long)

Resonating with the essence of Taiwan's oolong teas, Vietnam's oolong varieties, such as Cao Son Oolong, offer a symphony of flavors shaped by partial oxidation.

Scented Tea (Trà ướp hương)

Delight in the fragrant nuances of lotus, jasmine, and grapefruit-infused teas, painstakingly crafted to capture the essence of nature's bounty. Lotus tea, in particular, stands as a quintessential emblem of Vietnamese tea culture, evoking a sensory journey through blooming fields.

Making the Perfect Vietnamese Tea?

In order to make a perfect cup of tea as per Vietnamese tradition, you need to have good quality tea (green tea), a teapot, and water. The main steps include boiling water, rinsing the teapots, and adding tea and hot water. It is important to use water that is not too hot or too warm. Accordingly, the ideal water temperature is around 75–98 °C, and it will change according to the type of tea. 

Boil Water

Vietnam tradition explains that a teapot should be washed with rain water or dew drops collected from lotus leaves at dawn. Begin by boiling water to the ideal temperature, ranging from 75°C to 98°C, depending on the tea variety.

Rinse Tea Pots

Rinsing teapots and cups with hot water is also another important step in making a perfect cup of tea. You can pour some boiling water into the teaware and rinse them simply. This process will keep the teapots and cups free of dust while maintaining the temperature of the brew. 

 “Wake Tea Up”

This is not a very common process. However, through this step, tea leaves may have a quick wash. First, you need to put the tea into the teapot, and then 80 degrees of boiled water will be added to the teapot for about 10 seconds. Then, remove the water from the teapot. This is called “Rinse and awaken the tea.”

Add hot water

Pour hot water over the tea leaves, allowing them to steep for optimal flavor extraction.

Relax and Enjoy

Savor the aromatic bouquet of Vietnamese tea, relishing each sip as it transports you on a journey of sensory delight.

5 Fascinating Insights into Vietnamese Tea Culture

Tea has become a significant culture in Vietnam for a longer period of time. Here we will discuss five interesting facts about Vietnamese Tea Culture.

A Tapestry of Heritage

Vietnamese tea culture has a long history that goes back about 4000 years. It starts with the Hung King’s time, 2879 – 257 B.C. The story describes that a noble lady of Hung Due King visited a village in Vietnam, Van Loung Vilage. She had given guidance to village people on how to row tea and cotton. Later, those lands were named Tea Hamlet and Cotton Hamlet in tribute to her. 

The main milestones of Vietnamese Tea history include French Colonial times from 1882 to 1945, when tea was established as an export commodity with the development of many tea plantations and factories.  During 1945–1986, most of the tea lands and factories were severely damaged by war. From 1986 to the present, the tea industry in Vietnam has undergone different transformations and developments. 

Vietnam Preserve Tea as a Cultural Anchor

Beyond mere sustenance, tea serves as a cornerstone of Vietnamese hospitality. Tea in Vietnamese Culture has many meanings;

  1. A warm welcome when  guests come to visit Tea is a sign of filial piety, respect, and hospitality among Vietnamese people
  2. A way to start a friendly conversation -  In Vietnamese Tea Culture, People meet and share their stories in a friendly manner while tasting a tea and inhaling its aroma
  3. Connect the village community – In the early days of Vietnam, people used to make tea every evening to treat village members.  
  4. Relax, meditate, and recite poetry 
  5. A healthy drink to start a new day—there is a saying among them, “a pot of tea at down.” Thus, people start their day with a cup of tea with the belief that it is good for health and to rejuvenate the body.

Vietnamese Tea Culture embraces simplicity 

Vietnamese tea culture is simpler than Japanese or Chinese tea cultures. Typically, Vietnamese tea culture explains that people prefer the plain taste of tea. Sometimes, Vietnamese prefer to drink tea made from fresh leaves. Fresh leaves brew in hot water, which causes them to retain a bitter taste and a sweet aftertaste.

When it comes to scented tea, lotus-scented tea is the most famous tea, and it is the symbol of Vietnamese tea. Other scented tea types are also made with flowers like Jasmine, moringa, pomelo, magnolia, etc. Fruit and herbal tea have been added to the Vietnamese tea culture most recently and young people like to move for teas like kumquat tea, lemon tea, peach tea, lemongrass tea, litchi tea, etc. 

A Diverse Palette of Teas

From traditional green teas to fragrant infusions, Vietnam's tea offerings encompass a kaleidoscope of scents and tastes, reflecting the nation's rich tapestry of growing regions. On the other hand, freshly picked, raw leaves will be used to make tea. Traditional green tea is made with dried tea leaves, appears curved like a hook, and is black and grey in color. 

The Art of Tea Making

Vietnamese people make and enjoy tea using fresh and dried leaves. 

  1. Fresh Green Tea

There are two methods to make fresh green tea. The first method is to select a small branch, with thick leaves on the tree and wash it thoroughly. Slightly crumbled tea leaves are cooked in a big pot for a few minutes and then poured into large earthenware bowls.

The second method is brewing fresh leaves in a teapot or kettle. Washed and gently rubbed tea leaves are put into the teapot, and boiled water will be added to it, covering the tea leaves. Then discard the first water, and then put the second water in and brew for about an hour. 

2. Five Incense Teas

    Tea makers prepare five incense teas with five types of flowers on a special tray with five hollows. You can select flowers as per your personal preferences and the season. A small cup is washed off with boiled water and then placed upside down on each flower cluster. It should take about 3 minutes to blend the flower scents. Then a delicious cup of tea is poured into the cup and it becomes strangely fragrant due to the above process. 

    3. Traditional Green tea and flower tea

    These teas will follow the basic steps of making tea, such as rinsing the teapot with boiling water, adding tea, washing tea once with hot water, and brewing tea with hot, boiled water.

    Final Thought

    As we conclude our exploration of Vietnamese tea culture, we emerge enlightened and inspired by the timeless traditions and vibrant flavors that define this rich heritage. From the mist-covered mountains of the north to the bustling streets of the south, tea unites the people of Vietnam in a shared appreciation for simplicity, authenticity, and the profound beauty of nature's bounty. Indeed, to understand Vietnamese tea culture is to embrace a journey of discovery, where each cup tells a story and every sip is a celebration of life's simple pleasures.

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