Lotus Blossom Tea

As you can probably tell by our post history, we love exploring the intersection of tea and culture. For any country that has been producing tea for a long time, certain cultivars or blends are often seen as being particularly emblematic of their cultural heritage. Chinese Dragon Well, Japanese Sencha, Indian Masala Chai – the list goes on. In this post, we’re going to take a look at another such tea of national importance: Vietnamese Lotus Blossom tea.

Tea Scented In a Lotus Flower (unfortunately it can’t travel outside Vietnam).

            For the Vietnamese, the lotus flower is prized for more than its rare beauty and sweet fragrance. Vietnamese poetry and philosophy has long praised the blossoms as symbols of purity, perseverance, hope, and optimism, as the seeds take root in deep mud, sinking below the surface every night before rising to bloom with the dawn. Officially recognized as the country’s national flower, the lotus is a staple of Vietnamese art, architecture, cuisine, medicine, and (of course), its tea.

            The art of infusing tea leaves with the scent of the lotus blossom is said to date back to the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1883), during the reign of King Tu Duc. During the night, when the blossoms were at their most fragrant, the king’s servants would row across the lake to carefully open the closed petals and fill the flowers with green or yellow tea, binding them shut with silk ribbon to keep the tea leaves dry. In the morning, the newly-scented tea would be harvested and served to the king with his breakfast.

            The modern production of traditional lotus tea is still done entirely by hand, although methods of scenting have changed. According to the expertise of Hanoian tea crafters, the only suitable blossoms for this scenting are West Lake lotus flowers. While white, yellow, and green tea are still used for scenting, Russian tea production practices in the 1980s introduced and popularized the use of black tea as base.

Lake of the Returned Sword in downtown Hanoi, Vietnam facing Ngoc Son Temple.
Hồ Hoàn Kiếm or Lake of the Returned Sword in downtown Hanoi, Vietnam

After being harvesting, the base tea is subject to repeated phases of drying to give it a moisture content of 2-3%. Once this is achieved, it will then be ready to be infused with fragrance. Lotus flowers, plucked before dawn to ensure their finest aromatic quality, are harvested for their stamens, which are mixed with the tea leaves. The tea and stamens are left blended together for 36 to 48 hours, during which time the tea will absorb the fragrance and flavors of the lotus flower. When this scenting period is complete, the tea is again dried and then hand-sifted to remove the lotus stamens, after which it is ready for packaging.

Due to the exclusivity of these prized lotus flowers, and the laborious process involved in its production, traditional lotus blossom tea is a treasured commodity in Vietnam, and a rarity in the American market. But its heavenly floral fragrance and smooth sweetness make it a must-try for any tea enthusiast.

By: Jen Coate

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwitterpinterestrss

Thanksgiving Traditions in Asian Countries

Rio Grande Wild Turkey - Star of American Thanksgiving

Wild Turkeys

Are there Thanksgiving traditions in Asian Countries? Thanksgiving is thought of as a true American holiday that started with the Pilgrims celebrating a bountiful harvest with the Wampanoag Indians in 1621. The celebration of the fall harvest is not something new and could easily be found in other countries. So let’s look at the Thanksgiving traditions in some of our favorite tea growing countries.

Mid-Autumn Festival in China

China does not have a holiday that corresponds to the US Thanksgiving. They do have a Mid-Autumn festival that has been around for about 3,000 years that celebrates the first full autumn moon, which happens to correspond with the fall harvest of crops. The Mid-Autumn Festival does includes big dinners with family, but those are the norm for most of the important Chinese holidays. The food of choice for this festival is mooncakes. Not to be confused with the American Moon Pie cookie, mooncakes are a small pastry with a dense filling. There are different fillings and flavors based on the region of China that you live in. They are always served with tea. So we will save a more in depth discussion on mooncakes for a later blog. The Chinese government does recognize American holidays and encourages local businesses to make turkey available around the American holiday where there are larger numbers of American’s are living in China. Currently there are believed to about 100k Americans with green cards living and working in China (The US government does not count US citizens who live aboard that are not associated with the US military or diplomatic operations, it is done by other organizations).

Vietnam… And American Thanksgiving Dinner Feasts

The Vietnamese, much like the Chinese, have a Mid-Autumn festival that celebrates the moon and the fall harvest of crops. Many of the Vietnam holidays follow the Chinese, so this isn’t a surprise. However, Vietnam has a large and growing American tourist trade, so finding an American Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and cranberry sauce is a little easier. You just have to book reservations about a month or two in advance in Hanoi at some of the higher end restaurants to get your turkey dinner with cranberry sauce and stuffing.

Labor Thanksgivig Niiname-sai dance Katori Jingu Shrine, Katori City, Japan

Niiname-sai,traditional Japanese dance by Wikimedia user katorisi.

Japan Labor Thanksgiving

Japan has a formal Thanksgiving holiday on November 23rd every year. It is called Labor Thanksgiving and was introduced into the country after World War II during the U.S. occupation. The Japanese put their own twist on it by using the holiday to honor each others’ work through out the year. Labor unions use the day to hold festivals focused on human rights, peace and the environment. Labor Thanksgiving was combined with the ancient celebration of the fall harvest of rice, Niinamesai. It is documented that Niinamesai was first celebrated in 678 C.E. During Niinamesai, the Emperor presents the first harvest of rice to the Gods and partakes of the rice himself.Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwitterpinterestrss

Vietnam Tea Culture

Vietnamese tea culture is heavily influenced by China, but it still has its own practices that are not Chinese. Tea is present at weddings, business meetings, meals, and important celebrations. It is said that any good conversation in Vietnam is only had over a pot of tea.

Vietnam Tea History

Tea traveled into Vietnam from China over a 1,000 years ago and became a part of everyday life within the country. As a country, Vietnam has spent most of its history gaining its independence from various countries that tried to claim it for their own. From China to France, Vietnam has had a tumultuous history of being invaded and ousting its invaders that is reflected in how they view tea and its place in life. One Vietnamese tea poem states “The yellow and green of the tea and the natural scent of flowers symbolize the country, rich in culture and natural resources. Bitterness at the beginning reflects the hard-working life of the people. The sweet and cool taste that lingers evokes the Vietnamese soul, sentimental and faithful.”

The Vietnamese tea culture is centered on bringing people together. Tea is viewed as binding together families and friends through sharing of the drink and stories. Tea is also a negotiator, able to dilute anger or solve disagreements through its soothing qualities and good conversation. For Vietnam, tea is a part of everyday life and consumed through out the day, not just in the morning. Street vendors serve both hot and cold tea through out the day at bus stops and other places where people are generally waiting. It is not uncommon for strangers to sit together at these vendor’s carts and strike up a conversation over tea.

Rise of the Tea Industry

Tea picker in plantation in Vietnam.

Tea Harvesting in Vietnam by Flickr User ePi.Longo (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Vietnamese tea has boomed in both production and quality over the past forty years. Vietnam is the 5th largest producer and exporter of tea in the world. The bulk of its tea is exported to the United States for use in ready-to-drink or tea bag tea. The Vietnam Tea Association is working with local farmers to help them create their own brands both locally and aboard. Much like India has had success with branding Assam and Darjeeling teas, Vietnam is working toward the same geographic branding and production consistency to allow Vietnamese tea to be seen as a unique and valuable product in its own right.

Vietnamese tea is unique in its flavor profile. It is not always bitter, as mentioned above, but it definitely has that lingering sweet and cool taste. Whether it is a Vietnamese green, black or Lotus blossom tea, this country is capable of producing good quality tea and much more should be expected from them in the future.Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwitterpinterestrss