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Past and present linked in Hanoi’s tradition of enjoying lotus tea

For many people, tea is not just a drink. Tea drinking has become an elegant hobby enjoyed by many Vietnamese people and Hanoians in particular.

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Lotus blossoms are often picked before dawn.

Among different kinds of scented tea, lotus tea is loved for its refined fragrance. Ancient Hanoians found the way to bring the essence of lotus flower into the art of tea, by making fresh, premium green tea naturally embalmed with the fragrance of lotus.

Between May and August each year, lotus ponds next to Hanoi’s West Lake become a meeting place for a lot of Hanoians who want to relax and cool off.

Old villages around the banks of West Lake are where the most skillful tea makers can be found. Quang Ba, Tay Ho and Nghi Tam villages are famous for producing the best lotus tea  in Hanoi with secret recipes inherited from family for hundreds of years.

The procedure of making lotus tea is very complicated and requires a lot of meticulous work.

At 4 – 5am, before sunrise, people have to row out in West Lake to pick lotus blossoms. This process has to be done quickly in order to get the scent at its finest freshness and lusciousness.

They then choose the best lotus blossoms, disassemble them, and gently and quickly peel“lotus rice”, the small fragrant organs on the blossoms known as stamens.

Along with lotus petal, they use stamens in the initial scenting process. Tea will be embalmed with these petals for 2 days then dried up for the next step with lotus stamens, which is the most important part in scenting lotus tea.

Only green tea from Tan Cuong region of the northern province of Thai Nguyen should be used to make lotus tea, according to Nguyen Thi Dan of Hanoi’s Tay Ho district, the oldest lotus tea maker in the area.

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Approximately 1,000 lotus flowers are needed to make a kilo of lotus scented tea.

"The green tea must be totally dried before the scenting process begins. Approximately 1,000 lotus flowers are needed to make a kilo of lotus scented tea," said Ms. Dan.

Holding a freshly brewed cup of scented lotus tea and enjoying every small sip to feel the taste of the green tea and the refined fragrance of West Lake lotus flowers is totally a joy.

The process gives the tea drinker the feeling of calmness and relaxation, eliminating all worries in life. Writer Nguyen Truong Quy has written many works about Hanoi on different topics, including lotus scented tea.

"The taste of lotus scented tea varies, depending on each person’s feelings and his or her senses with nature," said Quy. 

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For many generations in Hanoi, the art of enjoying scented lotus tea has always been a beautiful experience.

Tea drinking has been preserved by many generations of Hanoi people. In recent years, this tradition has seen a strong revitalization among young people Nguyen Hoang Diep, owner of Tea Shop “O kia Ha Noi”, has organized lotus tea making classes to promote Vietnam’s tea culture every lotus season.

"In the past, Hanoians like me only knew about a special kind of lotus flowers called “Sen Bach Diep”, meaning hundred petals lotus. The flowers are big enough to put tea in to scent," Diep told VOV. 

Lotus in Hanoi’s West Lake is fragrant with hundreds of nice pink shaded petals and a distinctive scent: subtle, but linger-able and especially unforgettable. Lotus tea is jade green in color, with tightly twisted leaves and with a pale, amber-colored infusion.

For many generations in Hanoi, the art of enjoying scented lotus tea has always been a beautiful experience. VOV5


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