Walking along streets, it is easy for you to find a tea shop, which is a very popular part of Vietnamese street life. The owner skillfully lifts the cap of the tea cozy, takes out the tea pot, pours the hot tea into a small cup, and then hands the cup of steaming tea to the customer.
Vietnamese people have a nice habit of drinking tea. They drink it everywhere and at any time: at home, at workplaces, even in tea shops on their way to work, or at formal meetings, weddings or funerals. They also place it on altars as an offering to their ancestors on worshipping occasions.
Whenever the locals feel thirsty, they are likely to look for this drink, in both summer and winter. A cup of iced tea on a hot day in summer not only refreshes your mind but also detoxifies your body. On the contrary, in winter, a sip of hot tea makes you feel warm inside and better able to cope with the outside cold temperatures.
Yet, tea drinking is not a recent trend in Viet Nam but attached to an ancient history as follows:
Tea drinking - from history to daily life...
Viet Nam is one of the largest and oldest tea-producing countries in the world. The Vietnamese have been growing tea for over 2,000 years. As early as in the 11th century, tea was used as a symbol to convey the essence of Buddhism. During the period of the Tran Dynasty from the 13th to early 15th century, tea assumed a philosophical value for the Vietnamese. In the 15th century, the Vietnamese polymath Nguyen Trai (1380-1442) lived as a hermit, renouncing the outside world for a life of "tea, poetry and the moon."
Besides a normal thirst-quenching beverage, tea is also considered a delicate and meaningful one. In the past, it used to be the leverage for poets’ inspiration. Up to now, the habit of leisure tea-drinking has helped refresh and polish the drinkers’ minds. Moreover, a person's character can be assessed by his or her tea drinking ways. Vietnamese people consider those who drink concentrated tea to be finely-mannered; and those who can pour tea into bowls arranged in a circle using a coconut scoop without spilling a drop will certainly enjoy the admiration of their tea-drinking peers.
Kinds of tea
Viet Nam has grown many and various types of tea such as che Tuyet, che Moc cau, che man, che chi, etc. Each one is combined with a particular kind of flower: che man with chrysanthemum; che bup with hoa soi flowers; high quality che man and che bup with lotus, narcissus or jasmine.
Some connoisseurs go so far as to row out to the middle of a pond to place small amounts of tea inside lotus buds in order to perfume it. An example is cum tea, grown by the Tay ethnic minority. Cum tea plants are allowed to grow until the buds are mature, then they are picked, and roasted in a pan until they are dry and the buds begin to curl up. The tea is then wrapped up in palm leaves to keep it fragrant.
The Vietnamese like to mix tea with flowers to make it more aromatic. Tea with lotus is very precious for Vietnamese people. This kind of tea was formerly reserved to the Kings.
According to the predecessors, when the lotus blossoms in the afternoon, they put a sachet of tea in the pistil and then, they tighten it with the sheets of lotus. In the next morning, they take dew remained on the sheets and in mixture with the sachet of tea in the pistil.
After having poured into the cup, the soft and fresh odor of lotus dominates the whole room.
The tea culture has stuck to the life and the heart of Vietnamese people for generations. And when they drink tea at a small mouthful, the tea savor makes them more off-hand and closer to one another. This has formed the culture of the vicinity and the affection between neighbors.