Vietnamese tea- traditional drink nation wide
I’ve been talking about Vietnamese coffee on and on for a while now (well simply I’m a big fan of that drink- which helps me survive every single day). Today I’ll be telling you about the most popular drink in Vietnam: Vietnamese tea. Vietnamese tea is an extremely common drink for Vietnamese people. Younger generation tend to drink coffee, in towns and city. While older generation drink more green tea in the countryside.
Old people in Vietnam drink tea only, not coffee
Vietnamese tea: the most common drink in Vietnam
Coffee was brought into Vietnam by the French in the mid-19th century and yet becomes popular quickly. But Vietnamese people had been drinking Vietnamese tea for thousands years before that. With the one thousand years of the Chinese domination, Vietnamese tea is believed to derived from Chinese- the cradle of tea. For that many year tea is well loved drink among people all over Vietnam. Vietnamese tea was so common that they have this saying “Drink rice wine in the morning and green tea at noon” – “Rượu sang, trà trưa”. I guess it sounds not that fancy to drink rice wine (which is extremely strong) in the morning but not many people will refuse tea at noon. As a matter of fact Vietnamese tea is drunk all day: morning, noon, afternoon and even in the night.
For Vietnamese people, everything begins with tea: friends gathering, chitchat, business meetings, weddings, funerals, festivals…Everywhere you go, you’ll be offered small cups of bitter and sweat-in-throat Vietnamese tea. Tea is a sign of hospitality, warm heart and friendliness. When you a visiting a family in the countryside, the very first thing you will witness is how sincere the hosts are in making you some tea. When visitors arrive, your host will stop doing whatever he/she is doing, wash their hands and bring out the tea set.
Tea drinking area could be outside under shades of the trees if they have a nice garden, or inside right in front the ancestors’ altar. In the countryside of Vietnam there will always be a thermos for making tea for guests. And if the water is not hot enough that could lead to bad tea, the boy or girl of the family will be told to quickly make some hot water. When I was a boy and lived with my parents, whenever there was a guest coming to visit I always went prepared the water without having told. As I knew I would be anyway. Hehe
A nice tea set made in Bat Trang ceramic village
Drinking Vietnamese tea is a tradition for generations to show deference and hospitality to their guests. And no matter how big and important the subject is going to be, cups of nice and hot Vietnamese tea should always be sipped first before anything starts. This tea drinking is not as complicating as in China or Japan- where they have their tea ceremony. But there are rules for serving perfect cups of tea to their guests with these 7 steps:
- Water: According to the tradition, Vietnamese tea should be made with rainwater or, better yet, dewdrops collected from lotus leaves at dawn. Nowadays in cities it’s next to impossible to catch rain water for making tea. Then bottled water is recommended. Tap water is never qualified enough to make good tea. Make sure the water is not too hot, not too warm. Best ideal is around 75°C – 98°C depends on different types of tea.
- Heat the tea set: Tea set and tea cup should be heated by boiling water before putting tea in the set.
- Put dried tea into the pot, quantity according to taste (strong or weak) and type of tea.
- “Wake up tea”: Pour hot water into the pot and pour it out quickly. This step is to clean the tea to get rid of dust and to “wake tea up”. Don’t ask me why!
- Main step: Pour hot water into the pot. Make sure hot water fills up the pot and wait for around 1 minute.
- Serving: From the main pot, pour all the tea into another pot. And use this pot to pour tea into cups. Tea cups should be put together and pour tea into the cups in a circle so that tea is delivered equally into all the cups. A standard tea set includes a teapot, 3 small cups, and a large cup or pot to be used for straining or pouring. The best tea sets are the blue and white ones from Bat Trang village on the outskirts of Hanoi, or the antique, dark yellow porcelain ones from Giang Xi province in China.
- Repeat step 5 and 6 to make another serving. A good type of tea can make 3-4 servings by pouring hot water into it. When serving Vietnamese tea, a shallow saucer should be placed under the teapot to catch the overflow, thereby warming the bottom of the teapot. When presented with a cup of hot tea, sip it slowly to enjoy the flavor, and breathe in to enjoy the good smell.
Those are steps to make Vietnamese tea. And no you don’t have to do any rituals or burning any incense as in Vietnam tea ceremony is not that complicating.
Water stuck in lotus leaf is believed to best suitable for making tea
Typical Vietnamese tea is green tea and known as “hook-shaped curly tea,” because the leaves curl up after roasting. Some people claim that the correct term is “fish hook” or “areca mound” tea, because the curly dried leaves have a thin white coat, like the mound on an areca palm leaf. Top-quality tea is called “Thai Nguyen tea,” since the plantations of Thái Nguyen province were said to produce the best tea in Vietnam. Today, tea from other areas—Hà Giang, Yèn Bái, Suoi Giang—rivals that from Thái Nguyen. A skilled tea plucker can gather 30 to 50 kg of green leaf tea in one day, enough to produce between 7.5 and 9 kg of dried tea.
Moc Chau- one of the biggest tea plantations in Vietnam
Beside that above traditional way of making and enjoying Vietnamese tea. Nowadays in big cities and town, young people with busy life style cannot have that much time to make and enjoy tea by the right way. They just simply gulp low quality tea with lots of ice served in nasty plastic cups on the street side. Yes it is quick and it slakes. But that’s not accepted by the older generation who have their whole life stick with the traditional Vietnamese tea.
Iced tea is more popular among youngsters
Join us in our Hanoi Street Food Tour and sample so many other local drinks including a local Tra da.
By Pham Tuyen