When I first arrived here in Hanoi I was put up in a hotel for a week. Breakfast was provided every day, which included coffee or tea, and since I'm not a coffee drinker at all I asked for tea. Rather than getting the typical Lipton black tea that I was expecting, the girl asked if I would prefer jasmine or lotus scented tea! Having never tried it, I went for the lotus. It was delicious, and the girl was thrilled and proud that I liked it so much. I enjoyed a cup of lotus scented tea every morning that I stayed there, but I didn't really understand how special it was until about a year later.
|This guy is actually paddling through the lotus fields, cutting flowers for people to take home.|
Once we'd drank our fill and the sun was heating up too much, we headed back to the tea shop, where they put us to work! They'd collected 100 lotus flowers from the fields, and now it was our job to separate the tiny white pistils, which are the parts that give the scent, from the flowers. This was a rather painstaking job, especially because we were told that if we got any of the yellow part in it, the tea would be bitter! No pressure!
It takes a long time to get just a tiny amount of pistiles! It takes something like 1.4kg of these to scent just 1kg of tea. No wonder it's so expensive!
They mix the pistiles with the tea, seal it up in a jar or a bag, and leave it for a couple of days. Then they do the same thing again!
And just look at the mess we made!
It may have been an early morning but it was a fun one and worth it, even if they did put us to work! The fresh lotus tea we made here tastes far better than the stuff I had at the hotel from a teabag. I'm so glad that the owners of Ochao are keeping this tradition alive, and teaching others about it. So now go seek out some lotus scented tea to try!