Tea in Vietnamese culture
In Vietnam, tea is said to appear in almost every social activity: from weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and ritual ceremonies.
A cup of hot tea in the early morning after breakfast, some iced tea at a “quán cóc”, a make-shift shop on the roadside, while waiting for a friend, or a whole day chilling out in a teahouse, that is the way tea exists in the daily life of Vietnamese people.
Let’s spend a few minutes to observe and appreciate Vietnam’s tea culture and its rich history.
Through the 13th to 15th century, Vietnamese people believed that tea assumed many philosophical values, since it was seen as a source of spiritual purity. Vietnamese scholars chose to read books and drink tea as a means to escape the petty concerns of chaotic life, to achieve enlightenment and peace of mind.
Drinking tea was thought to help in improving one’s character, polishing one’s manner, and assessing one’s personality. People who drank concentrated tea were regarded to have fine manners and tea artisans with the ability to pour tea into bowls arranged in a circle without spilling a drop were admired by their peers.
Vietnamese tea etiquette is very diverse and has no fixed standard. It creatively conveys the depth of language among people. Through time, tea gradually made its own place in the everyday lives of people, including both aristocrats and ordinary people, and city and countryside dwellers alike.
Today, besides at special celebrations such as weddings, funerals, and other traditional rituals, tea is served several times each day in every Vietnamese home.
After waking up in the morning, many elderly people enjoy a cup of hot green tea before starting their day for a comforting refreshment.
Backyard patios and gardens are popular places to drink tea for their closeness to nature, as some fresh air can give extra flavor to the tea.
Vietnamese people believe that tea brings people together and expresses hospitality; hence people often invite their friends or neighbors round for a chat over a cup of tea.
Tea is also used to calm down heated quarrels by diluting one’s anger. Moreover, consuming tea after meals, especially dinner, is also a habit that is practiced by many people, when family members can gather round, talking about what they have done during the day.
Tea is not only consumed inside homes but also on the streets of Vietnam. It is commonly sold in “quán cóc” - or street vendors - which are easily found in the front gate of bus terminals, train stations, schools, offices, or even in some corners of quiet alleys.
“Quán cóc” with hot or iced green tea is an interesting piece of Vietnamese street life, where people, especially workers and students, often come to have some rest during short breaks amid exhausting work days, while waiting for friends, or while picking up children after school.
“Quán cóc” connects people. Strangers become friends as they share stories and discuss the latest news while smoking cigarettes or snacking on some peanut candy.
Recently, Hanoi’s young people have found a new trend: gathering around and chilling out at a new type of “quán cóc” called “trà chanh”, or “tea with fresh lemon”.
A few plastic short-legged stools, a small dish of roasted sunflower seeds, and certainly, a glass of “trà chanh” for each; this is enough for everybody to have a great time at a very low price.
“Trà chanh” is so popular that it has even become slang used widely by young people to refer to “hanging out”. The most boisterous and exciting place to drink “trà chanh” is at the area around Saint Joseph Cathedral. There one can get a chance to observe the daily life of young Hanoians by listening to them discussing all the hottest events, fashion, technology, and any gossip that one could think of!
Nowadays, with incomes and living standards on the rise, people have a want to learn more about traditions and culture and also to recall the nostalgic feeling of the good old days. These desires explain why more and more teahouses are appearing in Vietnam recently; the teahouses being diverse in cultural influences, from Chinese, Japanese, to traditional Vietnamese teahouses.
Distinctive in architecture, those teahouses are attractive to those who wish to enjoy their tea in a unique spaces designed exclusively for tea buffs and tea lovers.
In the rooms decorated like old houses in the Vietnamese countryside, customers take their time, sitting under the leaves and letting the slender smoke from the teapots ease all the troubles in life.
At teahouses, people are free to choose whatever kind of tea they like, from the traditional green tea, scented tea, herbal tea, to exotic imported tea, dependent on the teahouse’s style. There they spend hours conversing with their peers about issues regarding tea. Vietnamonline