The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Lotus Tea - A Taste of Vietnamese
Culture In Every Cup
Lotus tea is one of Vietnam's ancient teas, still being produced by some in the
old, traditional way, using natural flower blossoms to scent the tea.
Lotus tea scenting is consid-
ered to be an art form of
sorts in Vietnam, as well it
should be. Careful consider-
ation must go into each and every step of
the dainty, time consuming process.  In fact,
because of the slow, careful, labor and time
intensive process, only thirty families still
produce lotus tea using the centuries old,
traditional process.

In
Vietnam the lotus symbolizes beauty,
purity, and good fortune. Using a high-grade
green tea base, the lotus is then married to
the tea to produce a lovely, sweet aroma,
with hints of vanilla in it.
Lotus tea was originally created during the Nguyen Dynasty for King Tu Duc.  At night when the
nectar was at its fullest, the servants would row out in the lake where the lotus blossoms grew.
                                               Very carefully and gently, they would peel back each fragile petal
                                               of the blossom and fill it with
green tea.  Then the flower was
                                               closed up, and the petals bound with ribbon or silk string,
                                               keeping the tea safe and dry as it absorbed the scent of the
                                               lotus overnight.

                                               In the morning the servants would row back out to the lotus
                                               flowers, carefully open the petals and remove the green tea,
now heavily scented with the sweet fra-
grance of the lotus flower.  They would re-
turn just in time to prepare the tea for the
King's breakfast.

Not only kings enjoyed lotus tea, but also
the people, beginning during the Nguyen
Dynasty when tea drinking was elevated to
an art, it became the custom for the Viet-
namese people to take their boats out onto
the ponds and lakes on moonlit nights when
the lotus blossoms were about to bloom,
placing the tea inside each blossom, then
closing it with ribbon or string.

By morning, not only would the sweet scent
of lotus impregnate the tea, they would also
collect the nighttime dew that had formed, gathering enough dew to add to their
teapots.  After
sleeping for several hours, they would spend an enjoyable afternoon drinking the fruit of their
          labors-delicious and fragrant lotus tea.

                                                           There are different
grades of lotus tea, and this tradition-
                                                           al method of scenting by wrapping small amounts of
                                                           green tea inside the lotus blossoms is still used, although
                                                           fewer than thirty families still produce it using this ancient
                                                           method.  They no longer row out to the blossoms to fill
                                                           them at night, though, but rather pick the lotus flowers
                                                           just as they have bloomed.

          Using care, the petals are peeled back and a small opening is made,
          and about 2g (0.07 oz.) of green tea is placed inside. The tea is then
          bound inside the petals and string or thread is used to tie them light-
          ly closed.

          After 24 hours the blossoms are again opened and the tea removed.
          With this method 500 lotus blossoms are needed to make 1 kg or
          2.2 lbs. of lotus tea.  This labor intensive style of making lotus tea is
          done from May to July, which is the opportune time to pick the
lotus
          blossoms before they fully bloom.

          The more modern, alternate method used today to make this delightful
scented tea,
          starts with a base of green tea, either Thai Nguyen or shan tea.  Expert tea scenters
          then choose their favorite variety of lotus blossoms and disassemble them, removing
          the stamens and fragrant pollen.

                                                             Between 1,300 and 1,500 lotus blossoms are used to
                                                             scent just over a kg (2.2 lbs.) of lotus tea. The pollen is
                                                             added to the dried green tea, applied in several small
                                                             applications over a course of two weeks. This
specialty
                                                             tea goes for over $125 kg (2.2 lbs.) in Vietnam.

                                                             Lotus tea is jade green in color, with tightly twisted
                                                             leaves, and with a pale, amber colored infusion.  It has
          a crisp, clean flavor, with a hint of vanilla, and sometimes even a slightly bitter aftertaste
          of anise seed, lingering in the mouth.

          When
brewing, add 2 1/2 to 3 teaspoons by volume OR 2.5
          to 3g (0.09 to 0.10 oz.) by weight, for every six ounces of
          water.  Lotus tea has a green tea base and should be brew-
          ed between 65 to 75C (149-167F), and steeped for about
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                                            2 to 3 minutes.  Strain and re-infuse one or two more times.

TIP:  Be careful not to over brew or steep too long with this tea.  It already leans toward being astringent, and can
easily become bitter tasting if brewed too hot and steeped for too long a time.  It's easiest to use and set a kitchen
timer.

                                               Lotus tea isn't always easy to find, so when you do, buy a small amount unless the
                                               seller is familiar to you, or you're able to sample.  Some
Vietnamese teas lend them-
                                               selves to being a bit more astringent to begin with, so you might try to buy your first
                                               small batch from a reputable vendor that is recommended or buy a recognizable mar-
                                               ket brand if available, until you decide how you like it, and if it's "your cup of tea."
                                               
Enjoy.