The Art of Marinating Lotus Tea at the West Lake

 

If the land of East Asia is famous for tea ceremony around the world, there is also a tea art no less quintessential and longevity  in Hanoi, Vietnam: the art of marinating lotus tea at Tay Ho Lake (aka Ho Tay, literally The West Lake) in the northwest of centre Hanoi. Compared with Hoan Kiem Lake – the symbol of the thousand-year-old culture of Ha Thanh  (another name of Hanoi,) Ho Tay is much larger with an area of over 500ha, perimeter of 18km.

Lotus Blossom Season On The West Lake

The lotuses growing on the West Lake are pretty big and beautiful. Some say that Ho Tay Lake already has a hundred types of petal lotus, some of which are rare types. Ho Tay lotuses have many stacked petals and yellow stamens; pink petals are not too dark, but not too pale.  The petals open brilliantly big over the lotus blossom season from June to the end of August every year. This is also the only season for artisans to make lotus tea.

West Lake ‘s lotuses. (Photo: vietravel.com)

Therefore, if you have a chance to visit Hanoi on this occasion, don’t miss that opportunity to enjoy a cup of tea with typical essence of Ha Thanh. Tay Ho’s marinated tea is an art form because this tea requires the artisans to be meticulous and patient in each step. That is why this kind of tea was only for the noble long time ago.

The Meticulousness of Making  Lotus Tea

In the early morning, when the sun has not risen, the tea maker silently rows a small boat to the middle of the lotus pond. The lotus aroma is still intense and not scattered in the early-morning mist. Lotus buds and leaves are covered with sparkling droplets like girl’s tears. The tea connoisseurs catch that kind of fog to use as water to make the original Tay Ho tea.

Picking up lotuses in the morning. [Photo: tuoitre.vn)
Selecting qualified lotus buds on the lagoon carefully, tea makers use the well-dried buds to slightly separate the pink petals; then drop small portions of tea into the lotus bud; after that, let them stay there all night for the tea buds to be flavored with the essence of the heaven and earth. In the next morning, the lotuses that pouch tea are carefully picked. The way to marinate tea directly on the lake is called live marination (uop song).

In addition, the artisans making lotus tea also use the method of marinating the already-picked lotus flowers. This method is very picky as well. The lotus buds, were picked early in the morning, must have slightly open petals as they are smiling. From 1000 to 1400 lotus buds, after marinated, are reduced to only 1 kilogram (2 pounds) of precious tea. After the lotus flowers are picked, their petals are carefully separated by the artisans. Inside it reveals lotus stigmas and anthers.

Marinating lotuses. [Photo: baomoi)
There are tiny milky white particles on the anthers of Tay Ho lotus. Tea artisans call this lotus rice (gao sen,) which lies among the yellow lotus anthers. In spite of being tiny, they contain the fragrance of the Ho Tay Lake. Therefore, only lotus rice is used to marinate lotus tea. To filter between lotus rice and lotus anthers, the artisans carefully separate the lotus rice into the baskets, then sieve them to remove the remaining lotus anthers. The lotus rice is spread evenly over the tea and marinated for 5-7 times to produce 1kg of Tay Ho tea.

Marinating tea in a lotus. (Photo: songmoi.vn)

Conclusion

Rare and precious Tay Ho Tea has spent years of historic events along with the historic Thang Long land (the old name of Hanoi capital). Not everyone living in Hanoi for many years gets a chance to enjoy a real cup of Tay Ho tea. However, if you have ever tried it, that strong and gentle aroma will surely be an unforgettable experience in life.

Writer: Linh Dang

Translator: Nhu Tran

Check out What Barack Obama Tried in Vietnam

Are you curious about what Mr. Obama ate? It is Bun Cha, one of Hanoi’s must-try delicacies. Bun Cha, along with Pho, is a gift that makes Hanoians so proud of their homeland.

During his official visit to Vietnam from May 23rd to 25th 2016, the US President Barack Obama had a dinner at a long-established restaurant in Hanoi with Chef Anthony Bourdain. Are you curious about what Mr. Obama ate? It is Bun Cha, one of Hanoi’s must-try delicacies. Bun Cha, along with Pho, is a gift that makes Hanoians so proud of their homeland.

Full video of Mr. Obama’s visit 

It is not difficult to come across a ‘Bun Cha’ stall in almost every corner of Hanoi. However, to find out a good one is not easy at all. The eatery where Mr. Obama and the chef of Part Unknown Travel and Cuisine chose is “Bun Cha Huong Lien”, of which “Huong Lien” is the name of the restaurant owner.

The eatery where Mr. Obama and the chef of Part Unknown Travel and Cuisine chose (Photo: brunch.co.kr)

This dish is comprised of two main simple parts, Bun (white rice noodles) and Cha (grilled pork and meatballs.) Bun, long and soft vermicelli, is made from rice powder, while Cha is made from the best parts of side pork and pork belly with three elements: lean meat, fat and skin.

However, another thing that makes this dish special and varied from one eatery to another is dipping sauce. To make good-taste sauce, basically we need fish sauce, oyster sauce, garlic, chili, lemon, apricot, honey, plus a few slices of carrot, kohlrabi and cucumber. The mixture of them creates a fragrant, sweet, sour and spicy dipping sauce.

All ingredients to eat with bun cha (Photo: me & con)

Most people eat bun cha with a pair of chopsticks and a spoon. It must be challenging for foreigners who are not used to chopsticks. You will be served with a plate of bun and a plate of vegetables and herbs. Cha will be dipped in the sauce to keep its taste. All you need to do is to pick up some noodles along with a piece of Cha and some vegetables into your bowl. Then try it! Wow so yummy!

People often use chopsticks to pick up some noodles along with a piece of Cha and some vegetable (Photo: tuoitrenews.vn)

If you have a chance to visit Hanoi, bun cha is a must-try food with only 2$ a portion. If you want to try it at the restaurant where Mr. Obama used to drop in, visit Bun cha Huong Lien” at 24 Le Van Huu Street, Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi, one of the best Hanoian delicacies is waiting for you.

Linh Dang – Bich Ngoc