Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tea In Hoi An, Vietnam


Introductory Note: The tea pictured is of the common Vietnamese, low grade, flowery type and has nothing to do with the tea mentioned below other than the fact that it was produced in Vietnam and enjoyed in the charismatic streets of Hoi An.

Hoi An, an old Chinese and later French trading town, was once bustling with the trade of goods, some of which were tea. Today Hoi An still shows some traces of its tea trading roots. In particular, the modern day Tam Tam Restaurant and Cafe is housed in what used to be a warehouse for tea. This building still flaunts old colonial charm and original Chinese Calligraphy but seems to serve up more Jack and Coke than tea these days.


In the drizzling rain of early morning, in the busy core of the central market, one finally stumbled upon some nice tea. The shop had large glass sealed jars of different grades and brands of Vietnamese green tea on display in the front of the shop. The modest concrete store looked much like the facade of the commonplace tea shops of China but with a more rundown and barebones feel to it.

One sat with the shopkeeper, a polite, smiley, and undemanding young lady, and sampled the highest grade green tea that the shop had. One didn't take tasting notes, but instead stayed in the moment enjoying tea in the ambiance of the old market.

The Vietnamese tea seemed to share elements of both Chinese and Japanese green teas. It had a fresh grassy greenness to it that was common of Japanese teas while dwindling in a deeper roasted notes found in some Chinese greens. One remembers that the aftertaste of this tea was its shining point as it nicely evolved in the mouth and throat.

One wished to take a bit of this tea with but because the tea was sold loose and not in an airtight container one decided to pick up a Vietnamese oolong in a tightly sealed vacuum pack instead. One didn't sample this tea but it was quite inexpensive and was recommended by the courteous shopkeeper. As it turned out this would be the only tea purchased throughout ones travels in Vietnam.

Peace

6 comments:

LaoChaGui said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences in Vietnam. I don't have much experiences with tea cultures outside of China and Japan. Where are you headed next?

Matt said...

Lao Cha Gui,

Thanks for your interest. It's tough to get knowledge on other smaller tea cultures around Asia and the world partly because Japan and China's tea culture is so deep and rich, and partly because of their historical connections with the West.

One is actually in Laos right now! Expect some interesting posts on Laos' 400 year tea culture.

Peace

Cha sen said...

I hope you have had a chance to sample the lotus tea, a specialty of Vietnam. It is truly unique and one of my favorites.

Matt said...

Cha Sen,

One believes you are referring to the 'lotus tea' that involves a stage of production where green tea is wrapped in a lotus flower to acquire its flowery scent and taste. That tea is quite fragrant and tasty if not a bit too flowery. Or are you alluding to actual lotus pedal, lotus root, or lotus leaf tea? One didn't taste that tea in Vietnam but actually made lotus leaf tea in Korea. It's great on a hot evening! Thanks for dropping by.

Peace

Cha sen said...

The lotus tea that I have had is indeed green tea that is then permitted to be suffused with the essence of the lotus in the manner that you indicated. I have not had the lotus leaf tea. That sounds quite intriguing!

Matt said...

Cha Sen,

Yes, the green tea that you have is likely the most famous tea out of Vietnam.

In Korea, monks have a special affinity for lotus flower tea (made with no tea, just flower). This is due to the symbolism that the lotus plays in certain Buddhist sects. It's quite a beautiful tea.

Thanks again Cha Sen.

Peace