Indigenous way of making and drinking tea
The oldest way of preparing tea that exists in Vietnam till today is “nước chè tươi” (“nuoc che tuoi”, brewing fresh tea leaves). Families living in rural areas still have their very own tea trees in the garden. They pick fresh tea leaves, wash them, softly crinkle, stuff in a pot and boil. Such a “spontaneous tea” is very refreshing and invigorating.
Of course, this method of making tea tied down to tea trees and has no industrial prospects. And the fact that it has survived to the present day and now in Vietnamese villages you can easily try “nuoc che tuoi” is a true miracle.
In the course of contacts with the Chinese for several years, Vietnamese people learned and practiced Chinese tea ceremony among people of ranks, status and alike. Interactions with the European industrial approach created prerequisites for the development of Vietnam’s own tea industry.
Along with absorbing the Chinese art of tea, the Vietnamese also created their own way of enjoying the drink. Instead of using fragrant tea they used plain tea and fresh flowers on a tea session. They use heat to scent flower’s fragrance into tea cups then pour green tea into it. Each participant has to guess which flower has scented his cup. Five flowers used are Cuc (Chrysanthemum), Soi (Chloranthus erectus), Nhai (Jasmine), Sen (Lotus), Ngau (Aglaia odorata). Each session are limited to five people and each would have chance to taste all flavour though in different orders.
A Local Specialty
Vietnam has created a unique lotus tea, chè sen, a classic piece of gastronomic luxury. Difficult to produce, it requires a large amount of time and resources. In order to make a kilogram of high quality lotus tea, you need about 1000 lotus flowers.
The most beautiful technology of lotus tea production is to place tea leaves directly in the lotus flowers for the night. But there are other technologies, such as mixing tea with lotus stamens and leaving them like that overnight or joint roasting of tea with stamens. All these procedures are repeated many times and determine the rarity and unique taste of Vietnamese lotus tea.
Festive and everyday life
No tea culture can be only expensive and rare. The basis of tea culture is its mass character, accessibility and integration into the daily and festive life of people. In Vietnam, tea is said to appear in almost every social activities: from wedding, to anniversary and ritual ceremonies. Of course, tea in Vietnam is drunk at home, every day and for no specific reason, for example at breakfast. And each family may have their own tea secrets.
But the most striking part of the modern tea culture of Vietnam is public tea drinking. On the street tea is commonly sold in “quán cóc” (street vendors) which can easily be found near bus or train stations, schools, offices or even in some corners in quiet alleys. “Quán cóc” with hot or iced green tea is the key to understanding and developing Vietnamese consumer tea culture. In these small, simple and affordable tea vendors, you can have tea on the go or spend a few hours. It is here that centuries-old traditions, situational comfort and sprouts of future tea trends are combined.
The most interesting of these trends is the “quán cóc” called “trà chanh” (“tea with fresh lemon”). This is a new type of traditional “quán cóc” aimed at young people and having its own specialty — tea with lemon. This nuance peps the traditional tea room up and instantly makes it fashionable, stylish and youthful, at the same time keeping it inexpensive and very loyal — there you can sit for hours, without haste and hints that “a chair must produce a profit”.
Only a short time ago, Vietnam experienced a boom in milk tea. This drink is very popular now, but the milk tea market is not growing as rapidly as a couple of years ago. Back in 2017, one milk tea shop opened every four days in Vietnam with an annual growth rate of milk tea market being 20%.
Milk tea is a product of global drink-shop franchise projects, actively working with young people, with simple and easy-to-grasp tastes and bright advertising. And each such project brings its version of the drink to Vietnam. Taiwanese networks offer variations of Bubble Tea, networks from other regions have their own options.
Now this fashion is gradually fading out.
Well-developed consumer culture
Thus, even a quick glance at the Vietnamese tea culture is enough to notice its main features. Preserved traditions, eclecticism and flexibility, presence expensive and rare as well as mass and affordable tea products, and the constant emergence of new tea trends.
Acquaintance with such a tea culture is a real and very pleasant adventure.