However, if you look back at our nation’s history of drinking tea since ancient time and see it continue with today’s young people enjoying tra, we can say for sure that Vietnam has its own tea drinking culture with our own characters.
“Tea drinking has existed for a long time in Vietnam. In the past, drinking was just for noble classes but for a long time now people from all walks of life enjoy tea,” said Trinh Quang Dung, a researcher in Vietnamese tea culture. He added that iced tea is a new trend of tea drinking culture in Vietnamese society as traditionally people just drink hot tea.
The Japanese tea ceremony is a traditional ritual influenced by Zen Buddhism in which powdered green tea is ceremonially prepared by a skilled practitioner and served to a small group of guests in a tranquil setting. Since a tea practitioner must be familiar with the production and types of tea, with kimono, calligraphy, flower arranging, ceramics, incense and a wide range of other disciplines and traditional arts in addition to his or her school’s tea practices, the study of the tea ceremony takes many years and often lasts a lifetime.
Even to participate as a guest in a formal tea ceremony requires knowledge of sado, including the prescribed gestures and phrases expected of guests, and the proper way to take tea and sweets, and general deportment in the tea room.
Vietnamese tea presents the liberal character of the people’s soul. It expresses a random pleasure as drinking it is a ritual preliminary to conducting business, scholarly meditation, getting acquainted, serving guests at home or in parties, even to romance or just to satisfy one’s thirst.
“Vietnamese tea is divided into two types: folk tea and royal tea.Royal tea will be prepared and served specifically that people often have a tea course requiring a brazier, boiling pot, earthenware pot of cold water, tea pot, teacups, tea box and a coconut ladle. The spaces are often designed in countryside styles with lotus flower vases, calligraphy works, bamboo clusters and reed curtains together with small wooden tables on the floors with seating pillows,” said Vien Tran, another Vietnamese tea culture researcher.
Tran added that in feudal times, kings as well as noble classes attached much importance on tea making sets, flavor of tea as well as tea drinking locations. To them, drinking tea was an elegant pleasure and an art. And that style is still preserved in some families, especially originating from the North and the Central.
“They often choose romantic places near splendid landscapes of mountains, lakes, rivers in stillness to enjoy tea from tea sets made specifically for the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter,” she said. She added that following a traditional saying ‘Nhat nuoc, nhi tra, tam pha, tu am’ (first is water, second is tea, third is the way of making tea and fourth is the teapot), they are very careful to choose rain water or dewdrops on leaves in early morning, good tea mixed with many kinds of herbs, properly skillful making method and high-quality and eye-catching tea pots.
Meanwhile folk tea is a free drinking style that people can drink everywhere, anytime and in any way. They just put some tea in a hot water pot and enjoy it with a cup, a glass or a bowl.
Vietnam is one of the few countries where many people still use fresh tea leaves and branches to make tea, instead of using only powdered tea like the Japanese or dried tea like China, Dung said.
The elderly often worry the culture of drinking tea will fade in younger generations. “If politicians still drink tea during ceremonies, if businessmen drink tea in parties, if old people drink tea at home, young people drink iced tea in shops or restaurants, and farmers drink tea in their fields, the culture of drinking tea of Vietnamese will go on until eternity,” said Tran. She said that this cultural feature has just changed by time.