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29/05/2021 - 12:40

Recovering a famous kind of Hue tea

Thought not addicted, I am among those who like tea. Knowing that, my friends and colleagues now and then give me some precious good tea such as O Long, Hong Tra, Shan Tuyet Co thu, Bac Giang, Bac Thai as a gift.

 

Each kind of tea is of a different flavor and very good to drink, especially when it is packed with love from the giver and those who tend, harvest, process the tea then offer to people its pure fragrance from land and heaven.

Not only Japanese people are famous for drinking tea. The enjoyment of tea has also entered the Vietnamese life since a very long time ago. It is said that Vietnamese people see tea as early as they were born.

Tea is not only a beverage for refreshment, but drinking tea is also an elegant pleasure and spiritual nourishment. It is also to prevent diseases. As concluded by old people: three cups of tea regularly every early morning can help people avoid illness.

Ancient tea sets collected by Tran Dinh Son

The way Hue people enjoy tea is influenced by the royal style well known for its sophistication and elegance and many people still maintain it. For many people, including younger ones, tea is indispensable in the morning. 

It is not simply putting tea into a pot, waiting, then drinking it. Many young people now try to own tea sets in their houses with trays, teapots, cups, bowls, tea shoveling tools, fire furnaces, cup tongs, etc., so that at weekends, on holidays or Tet, or when welcoming friends home, they can talk over cups of tea. 

To meet the demand, for some years now, many tea houses or tea shops have appeared in both the northern and southern areas of the Perfume River, attracting both tourists and locals.

I am one of those people. There are many kinds of tea for customers to choose with many pompous names such as Quy phi tea, royal oolong tea, chrysanthemum tea, rose tea, Cung dinh Bat buu, etc. I have tried all of them but honestly they are not to my taste.

I still prefer the tea that is a bit bitter but sweet in the throat later such as Bac Thai tea or Tan Cuong tea.

It is a pity that no Hue tea is mentioned in the list of favorite teas in the ancient capital city though according to some documents, Hue used to offer the famous tea of Tuoc Thiet, which consists of crisply-dried buds, as tiny as the sparrow tongue. 

A pot of tea is indispensable when Hue people welcome their guests

The books Vietnamese Tea Civilization by Trinh Quang Dung and The Old Story of Van Duong by Tran Dinh Son both mention Tuoc Thiet tea, a kind of well-known ancient tea of Vietnam recorded in Annam Vu Cong (Du dia chi) by Nguyen Trai (1380-1442).

Duong Van An (1514-1591) also talked about this famous tea in O Chau Can Luc: “The tea at Kim Tra District (presently Huong Tra, Hue,) called by the name Tuoc Thiet meaning “sparrow tongue” and grown in mountainous areas in An Cuu can treat depression...” Time and wars have made this tea completely extinct. 

Hue used to be famous for De rice in An Cuu. But the An Cuu field, where De rice was grown, has been demolished. Unlike the speciality rice, which has been lost forever, Tuoc Thiet tea is fortunately still heard and listed among good teas in Northern mountainous areas. 

An Cuu and Huong Tra areas now still possess many hills and mountains suitable for growing tea. Why not trying growing Tuoc Thiet tea again? If successful, then spread it. 

Of course, we do not dare to expect it to become a commodity right away, but recovering the once-famous tea of the ancient capital city to diversify tourism products is interesting and necessary. 

Story and photos: Hien An

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