For a long time, tea has become a significant and delicate culture of Vietnam. If you are interested in tea culture or want to research Vietnamese tea before bringing them to your country, this article will provide you with five interesting facts about Vietnamese tea culture that you may not know.
1. Vietnamese tea culture in the past
You may have heard of tea from Vietnam recently, but actually, Vietnamese tea culture has a long history with many anecdotes.
According to the legend of Truong Chi – Mi Nuong, people had found and drunk tea more than 4000 years ago under the Hung Kings (2879 – 257 B.C.).
It is said that a noble lady of Hung Due King visited Van Luong village (now Van Phu district, Phu Tho province). She had taught people to grow tea as well as cotton for a living. To tribute her merits, the residents named those lands Tea Hamlet and Cotton Hamlet.
In The Classic of Tea ( 茶经, 760-762 C.E.), Lu Yu affirmed that tea was discovered by Shen Nong accidentally, and this is a precious plant from the South. Based on historical records, Shen Nong is the ancestor of the Vietnamese people. In Ha Giang and some provinces of Vietnam adjacent to the Chinese border, there are still many ancient tea trees up to thousands of years old.
Many poems and records from the early 11th century show that tea was used as a symbol to express philosophical values and convey the spirit of Buddhism.
During French colonial times from 1882 to 1945, French experts conducted many surveys of tea farms in Vietnam and considered tea as an export item to Europe. They established many tea plantations and factories, laying the foundation to develop the tea industry in Vietnam.
From 1945 to 1986, Vietnamese tea gardens and factories were severely damaged by the war. Thus the tea production was interrupted. With the help of the Soviet Union, many tea factories and farms were rebuilt. At that time, all tea products were exported to the Soviet Union.
From 1986 to the present, there are more economic sectors involved in tea production and trading. The Vietnamese tea industry has undergone various transformations and diversified development.
With a long development process, tea has been imbued with Vietnamese cultural and historical imprints.
For more information about history of Vietnamese tea, read here: 5 Milestones of Vietnamese tea history
A brief look at all the departments in the largest tea processing factory in Vietnam – Future Generation Company (FGC)
2. Tea culture has a significant position in Vietnamese society
In Vietnamese culture for thousands of years, tea has always played an important role and holds a notable position.
2.1. Tea has many meanings in Vietnam culture
More than a drink to quench the thirst, tea is like the soulmate of Vietnamese people. Tea in Vietnam culture comprises many other meanings as follows:
A warm welcome when guests come to visit
Vietnamese people consider the invitation of tea as a way to show filial piety, respect, and hospitality. In our culture, younger people prepare tea to invite elders; hosts make tea when guests visit their places.
A way to start a friendly conversation
Tea in Vietnam culture is the factor that brings people closer. Smell the aroma, take a sip of tea then comment on the taste. That is a simple way to start the conversation. A good teapot helps everyone open their hearts to share more meaningful stories.
Connect the village community
Tea, an idyllic drink, is believed to have the power to connect people and make them more united. In ancient villages, families often took turns cooking tea every evening to treat the whole village members. Vietnamese have the habit of gathering around a teapot, chatting, discussing their important events or problems.
Nowadays, Vietnamese people like to gather and drink many types of tea at home, in coffee shops, or on sidewalks.
Relax, meditate, recite poetry
For thousands of years, tea has become a drink for the soul and poetic inspiration. Many tea lovers use this drink as a way to relax and meditate. Leisurely tasting a cup of tea helps refresh their minds. This tea meditation originated in the temples and pagodas then became favored in the royal court.
A healthy drink to start a new day
Vietnamese people have a saying that is “a pot of tea at dawn”. Thus, many tea lovers start their day by drinking tea. They believe that drinking tea in the morning is very good for health, beneficial for digestion, rejuvenating the body, making the spirit fresh and ready for a new day.
A meaningful gift
The meaning of tea in Vietnam culture is most evident on special occasions. On Vietnam’s Lunar New Year Holiday (also called Tet), tea is the first option to prepare gifts for family, friends, or business partners. It is a must-have item on the ancestral altar during the Tet holiday.
You can easily find tea as an obligatory possession in Vietnamese weddings. Even in daily life, people may carefully choose premium teas as a gift to express deep appreciation.
Not just a drink
Tea is not just a drink in Vietnam culture, it is also a medicine. Vietnamese often use tea to clean the body of small kids. They believe this herbal is good for sensitive skin and helps to treat heat rash. You may be surprised to learn that Vietnamese even use tea to embalm bodies.
In some areas, tea is also used as a cooking ingredient. Chefs use tea leaves to remove the fishy smell, eggs, etc. They can create the unique flavor of the dishes. Tea powder can be used to make cakes, ice cream, and other products.
2.2. Tea is served everywhere and every time
In ancient times, the Kings and Lords had drunk premium teas such as Vietnamese lotus tea, Shan Tuyet tea, etc. Commoners used tea leaves that they plucked from tea plants in the garden.
Nowadays, Vietnamese still drink many types of tea. People drink tea every time, from spring, summer, autumn to winter, and both rainy or dry seasons. You can easily see tea everywhere across the North to the South of Vietnam, from roadside vendors to luxury places. You can have tea freely at some restaurants.
To sum up, tea has become an inevitable part of our culture. We will analyze in more detail the unique characteristics of Vietnamese tea culture in the next parts of this article.
3. Vietnamese tea culture is different from others
When it comes to tea ceremony culture, many people only think of Japan or China. Because in those countries, tea ceremonies are used on essential occasions, with strict principles of tea type, tea tool, brewing method. For the British, their afternoon tea is like a light meal with blended tea and many different types of cake.
Meanwhile, Vietnamese tea culture is less complicated but more diversified. Vietnamese tea culture is different from other countries because it combines two contrasting factors: complication and simplicity in making tea. It appears in daily life and many important events for the Vietnamese. In the past, to make tea for the Kings, people had to catch every drop of morning dew stored on lotus buds. But outside the palace, civilians only needed to use rainwater to brew tea.
Drinking tea is a part of daily life thus Vietnamese tea culture is not confined to any framework.
The typical feature of Vietnamese tea culture is that people prefer the plain taste of tea. It shows the rustic soul, love the essence more than the appearance of Vietnamese people. Traditionally, Vietnamese like to drink tea made from fresh leaves brewed in hot water. This simple way of preparing tea retains the bitter taste, gradually turning to a sweet aftertaste. Many tea lovers drink this for the whole day instead of pure water or any other beverages.
Over time, the types of tea and brewing methods have developed diversely. Nowadays, young generations tend to like fruit tea or milk tea. Tea in Vietnamese culture is not tied into one or two types. There is a series that you can learn more about in the next section.
4. There are various types of Vietnamese tea
Vietnamese people have been developing plentiful types of tea that can be divided into the following main categories:
Fresh leaves tea (Chè tươi)
Fresh tea is one of the oldest and most popular teas in Vietnam. Some raw leaves plucked directly from the tea tree in the garden or bought from the market in the morning are enough to make a good drink for the whole day or to share with your neighbors. Fresh tea is the simple way to enjoy tea, to mold the love of the village, to make people-friendly and closer to each other.
Traditional green tea (Trà Mạn)
Traditional green tea is dried tea leaves that have curved like a hook, black-gray color with no flavoring to preserve the essential value of tea leaves.
Another traditional green tea is made from old tea trees growing in high mountain areas, such as Tan Cuong tea from Thai Nguyen, Shan Tuyet tea from Ha Giang, etc. This type has white tips, a sweeter taste, and a stronger aroma.
Flower scented tea
Lotus-scented tea is another unique feature of Vietnamese tea culture and is considered as the symbol of Vietnamese tea. Besides, there are some other flowers that can be used to scent with tea such as jasmine, moringa, pomelo, magnolia, osmanthus, etc.
Each tea may have a different processing method. Normally, the tea used for flavoring is high-class green tea. After being blended and absorbing the fragrance of the flowers in full bloom a few times then drying, it becomes the precious flower tea.
Fruit and herbal tea
Fresh or cold-dried fruits and herbs are becoming trendy recently in Vietnamese culture. Vietnamese young people who do not like the bitter taste of tea leaves like choosing kumquat tea, lemon tea, peach tea, lemongrass tea, litchi tea, etc.
Related post: Top 9 most popular Vietnamese fruit teas
Along with the worldwide trend of milk tea (bubble tea), this drink has also stirred up the Vietnamese market since early 2000. Milk tea shops have been opened throughout Vietnam. Tea with some milk, with or without boba pearls, sugar, or fruit syrups receives the love of young people.
Future Generation Co. Ltd (FGC) has been processing and exporting various types of Vietnamese tea in bulk or convenient packages for more than 20 years. If you would like to discover more unique features or are interested in our teas, please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com
Last but not least, we will introduce more about Vietnamese tea-making methods.
5. There are various ways to make Vietnamese tea
In Vietnamese culture, people have many ways of making and enjoying teas from the traditional to the sophisticated, using both fresh and dried tea leaves.
Fresh green tea
There are two ways to make fresh green tea in Vietnamese style. The first one is that people select a small branch, thick leaves on the tea tree. After being washed and slightly crumbled, the tea leaves are cooked in a big pot for a few minutes then poured into large earthenware bowls.
The second way is brewing in a teapot or kettle. Fresh leaves are washed, gently rubbed, and put into the teapot. Boiling water is poured into the teapot to cover the leaves and then pour the first water away. Tea leaves can be kept brewing for up to one hour.
Five incense tea
As mentioned above, tea makers prepare five types of flowers and place them on a special tray with five hollows containing each type of flower. The chosen flowers might depend on the season and personal preference.
A small cup of tea will be rinsed with hot boiling water and then placed upside down on each flower cluster, kept for about three minutes for the floral scent to blend in. Then, delicious tea is poured into the cup. That hot tea suddenly became strangely fragrant.
Traditional green tea and flower tea
Vietnamese tea making often goes through basic steps such as: rinsing the teapot with boiling water, adding the tea, rinsing the tea with hot water, pouring out first rinsing water, brewing tea in hot water then pouring into a cup to drink.
Tea making in Vietnamese culture focuses on the following five factors:
Nhất thủy – Nhì trà – Tam pha – Tứ ấm – Ngũ quần anh
- First – Water: The water used to make tea is usually rainwater collected after rain or from natural springs. In some special cases, people prepare more sophisticatedly by using the dew on the lotus leaves caught drop by drop in the early morning.
- Second – Tea: The type of tea is chosen depending on the preferences and intentions of the tea maker.
- Third – Teacup
- Fourth – Teapot
- Fifth – Tea friends: Tea friends are good friends with the same interests of enjoying tea together, reciting poems, expressing feelings, or discussing family, social, and human stories. To find the right soulmates sometimes is not easy.
A tea set usually has four or six soldier cups, one serving cup. Before making tea, Vietnamese people often boil to pre-rinse the cups and pots. After brewing, the tea is poured into the serving cup and divided equally into the soldier cups, showing fairness.
Related post: How to make Vietnamese tea – A guideline to enjoy our tea easily!
Fruit tea, herbal tea, milk tea
After cooking or brewing tea (green tea, black tea, flower tea, etc.) for a certain time, the tea maker will pour tea into a big cup and add other ingredients (fruits, herbs, milk, sugar, ice,…).
Nowadays, teas are served both hot and cold, even packaged in handy convenient packages. People can easily buy tea gift sets or make a cup of tea themselves within a few minutes. There are more RTD teas that may save time for tea lovers.
After learning five interesting facts of Vietnamese tea culture, if you have any questions or would like to import Vietnamese tea, please feel free to contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Ms. Hang Gina – FGC Sales Executive
(1) Vietnamese Tea Civilization (Văn Minh Trà Việt by Trinh Quang Dung – 2012)