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
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.