Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lotus Tea Time!

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.

In the summer here in Hanoi (and much of Asia, I think) the lotus flowers bloom. For about 3 months from June to August, huge swathes of West Lake are covered in lotus plants, and Hanoians go out by the hundreds to have their pictures taken amongst the leaves and buds.  

There's a lovely tea shop here called OCHÂO, just on the edge of West Lake, that specializes in Vietnamese teas, including lotus scented tea. While the lotus flowers were in bloom, they offered tours to the lotus fields in the Northern part of the lake to see just how lotus tea is made.

One Sunday morning in July my friend Christine and I got up before the sun to take this tour (I can't remember why they had to do it early in the morning). We arrived at the tea shop around 5:30am and were immediately hustled into a taxi and sent to the lotus fields. By the time we got there the sun had risen so we had daylight to see thousands of lotus plants sprawled out before us.

There are two ways of making lotus tea. The first is to open up a lotus flower, pack it full of green tea, and then close it up again, leaving the tea inside to absorb the scent for about 24 hours. Our host was the owner of the tea shop, who sat us down in a bamboo shelter in the lotus fields and gave us a sample of this kind to drink while he showed us the parts of the lotus flower and told us everything we ever wanted to know about lotus and lotus tea!

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!


  1. I wanted to try this but the thought of willingly getting up @ 5 kinda blew it for me. maybe next summer... ^^

  2. Yeah, I would never have done it on my own. But with Christine going, I couldn't back out!


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