West lake lotus tea – a quintessence of Hanoians

“Thien co de nhat tra” (The most premium tea of time) West Lake lotus tea, made with lotus flower grown in West Lake, Hanoi, symbolizes the quintessence of the capital’s culture. The best time for making lotus tea is from the end of May to Sept. when lotuses bloom over iconic West Lake. It requires a meticulous and time-consuming process to make the tea in a traditional way.

Tran Thai Lan has made lotus flower tea for ten years. Lotus odour and colour suffuse her Tran Thai Lan’s house in every lotus blooming season. 

Lan, who loves the purity and gentle beauty of lotus, at first made lotus tea as gifts for her friends and relatives. After her tea won the taste of the recipients, and became popular among locals, she decided to make more tea to serve customers’ demand.

The selection of lotus requires great care to make the best tea. While lotus flowers are easy to grow and can be found anywhere, Tay Ho artisans only use lotus blooms in Ho Tay since they have a distinctive fragrance.    

Tran Thai Lan, lotus tea artisan, said: "We always choose sen bach diep (Sacred lotus or Nelumbo Momo Botan) planted in Ho Tay to make lotus tea as their fragrance is much more excellent than those grown in other ponds."

The lotus used to make the tea must be picked in the early morning when the dew remains heavy in order to ensure the tea’s freshness. After that, the anther is quickly separated from the flower before it withers and loses is fragrance.

"Signature Thai Nguyen tea is my best selection for lotus tea making because it complemests the lotus fragrance," Lan said.

The anther is then mixed with high grade dried green tea. For every layer of tea, a layer of fresh lotus anthers must be laid down. After that the mix is stored in a closed environment for two days to allow the lotus fragrance to infuse into the dried tea leaves. After two days, the lotus anthers are removed from the tea and replaced with fresh ones. This process is repeated seven or eight times over a span of three weeks or more.

According to Lan, the weather conditions decide the time that the lotus fragrance infuse into the dried tea leaves. Sometimes it only takes 18-24 hours.

Made with absolute meticulousness, each cup of lotus tea carries the quintessence of the heaven and earth, as well as devotion of the artisans. Taking a sip of lotus tea, tea connoisseurs seem to enjoy the quintessence of the Thang Long land.

Khanh Van, a local resident, said: "I am impressed by the lotus tea making process in Tay Ho. Besides enjoying the tea, I get a chance to study a standout traditional culture of the Thang Long land."  

Although rapid urbanisation has narrowed down areas of Tay Ho lotuses, many artisans have devoted themselves in lotus tea making so as to preserve the local tradition./.