Tea and Vietnamese

Tea is essential to Vietnamese culture.

In Vietnam, tea is said to appear in almost every social activities: from a wedding, birthday to anniversary and ritual ceremonies. A cup of hot tea in the early morning after breakfast, some iced tea at the roadside-make-shift shop while waiting for a friend, or a whole day chilling out in a teahouse; that is the way tea penetrates into Vietnam's daily life.

Drinking tea with the old Vietnamese

In the period of 13th to 15th century, Vietnamese believed that tea assumed many philosophical values since it was a source of spiritual purity. Reading a book and consuming tea had been chosen by many Vietnamese scholars as a means to escape from the petty concerns of chaotic life, to achieve palpability and peace of mind. Drinking tea was thought to help improving one’s character, polishing one’s manner, and assessing one’s personality. People who drank concentrated tea were regarded to have fine manners, while 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 drinking style is very diverse with no fixed standard and creatively imparts the depth of language among people. Through times, tea gradually has its own place in everyday lives of people, nobleman and the ordinary, living in the city and in the countryside alike.

Tea at home

Besides special celebrations such as a wedding, funeral or other traditional ceremonies, tea is served several times each day in every Vietnamese home. Waking up in the morning, many elderlies would love to have a cup of hot green tea before starting a new day in the hope of refreshment. Patio or garden in the backyard is among the most favorite places for tea appreciating for its closeness to nature, as some fresh air can give extra flavor to the tea.

Vietnamese believe that tea affiliates people together and express hospitality; thus people often invite their friends or neighbors around for a chat over a cup of tea. Moreover, consuming tea after meals, especially dinner, is also a habit that is loved by many people, when Family members can gather around, talking about what they have done during the day.

Tea at street

Not only at home but also on the street do Vietnamese drink tea Tea is sold commonly in street sellers which can easily be found in front the gate of bus terminals, train stations, schools, offices or even in some corners in quiet alleys. “Quán cóc” with hot or iced green tea is an interesting piece of Vietnamese street culture, where people, especially workers and students, often come to have some rest in short breaks of utterly exhausted working time, waiting for friends or for picking up children after school.

In recent years, Hanoi young people have found out a new trend: gathering around and chill out a new type of “tea with fresh lemon” (tra chanh). A few plastic short-legged stools, a small dish of roasted sunflower seed, and certainly, a glass of “tea with fresh lemon” for each; those are enough for everybody to have a great time at a very low price. “Tra chanh” is so popular that it even becomes a slang used widely by youngsters referring to “hang out”. The most boisterous and exciting place to drink “tra chanh” is at the area around Cho Gao street, Nha Tho street, where one will get a chance to have a close approach to daily life of young Hanoians, listening to their talks about all the hottest events, fashion vague, technology and any gossips that one can think of!

Further readings