Drinking tea is part of Vietnamese ancient culture since 3000 years ago. The art of slowly pouring tea into a cup from the teapot symbolize “high mountain-long river” and offering tea with three fingers means, “three dragons flanking a pearl”.
In Hanoi, there is a Vietnam Tea Lovers Club which currently has more than 300 members from all parts of Vietnam. The group members will gather once in every three months at Truong Xua Tea Parlour at 13 Ngo Tat To Street, Hanoi to taste and exchange experience about tea. There are many kinds of tea in this country and lotus tea is among the unique treasure of the country.
The beginning of Lotus Tea
Lotus tea production is very popular in north Vietnam, especially in Hanoi’s Tay Ho (West Lake) area. During summer, lotus pickers will row their boats into the take to pick the best lotuse blossoms to produce premium scented tea. Lotus pickers normally will go out to pick lotuses between 4.00am to 6.00pm which it is believed that the sweetest fragrance of the tea is after overnight covered by cool dew.
The lotus season in West Lake Hanoi normally will run from May to August yearly. It had been reported that a lotus picker can pick between 1000 to 3000 lotuses per day and the lotus from West Lake is the best and the biggest compare to other places. The lotuses in West Lake can produce the best scent is because of the fertile mud of the lake itself.
Once the lotuses are harvested, the flowers will be quickly separated from its petal to get the yellow filament of lotus stamen. This stamen contains of white anthers which produce the scent for the lotus. 100 stamens of lotus can produce around 100 grams of anthers and to get a kilo of dried lotus tea will normally need around 1000 to 1400 lotuses.
The Art of Scenting Tea
Drying and scenting tea is definitely an art. Tea maker will use a wooden barrel (the one to fill with water) and an absorbent paper will be placed at the bottom of the barrel. Next, layers of tea and lotus anthers will be placed inside the barrel until it is full. The barrel will need to be kept covered tightly. Every 4 to 6 hours, the barrel; has to be uncovered for a while to reduce the heat in it and to avoid allowing the lotus anthers to get rotten. The tea will be kept up to 24 hours and the same process will be repeated for the same barrel between three to five times by using new anthers.
Brewing tea and getting the perfect tea aroma will be depends on the water that you are using. Some tea lovers willing to go to Hanoian pagodas just to get rain water or even went to some villages to get water from fine well in order to have a better brew of the tea. It is all to ensure the freshness and the sweetness of the tea.
Scenting your own tea
Can you scent your own tea? The answer is yes and you can do it at home, if you have lotuses in your pond. What you need to do is to put your tea in a petals of newly blossom lotus and tight it with rubber string to force them not to blossom. Do this at night time because the tea leaves will absorb all fragrance of lotus and make it sweet in terms of aroma and taste. Covering lotus scented tea with lotus leaves can preserve the tea for 3 to 4 days under cool temperature and up to 10 days if you keep it in the fridge.
Drinking hot tea during a hot day can cool yourself or vice versa if you are having it during cool day. The tea drinking culture in Vietnam is not as complicated as drinking tea customs in Japan or in China. Older generations are always willing to teach you. The first bitterness feeling when having tea symbolized to the hardworking Vietnamese people and the yellow and green colour of the tea is significant to Vietnam which is rich with culture and natural resources.