Japanese King and Queen enjoy Vietnamese tea ceremony
Despite many years of researching and spreading Vietnamese tea culture to many countries all around the world, the most impressive and emotional show was the tea ceremony for the Emperor and Empress of Japan. On March 3rd 2017, I was honored to brew and offer tea for General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong with the King and Queen of Japan in a welcome tea party.
Although it only lasted about 30 minutes, the party made me feel nervous and stressful. I chose 2 famous Vietnamese specialty tea to prepare for my honored guests. It is high-class Tan Cuong tea in the most famous green tea area of Thai Nguyen Province and Tay Ho Lotus Tea that I marinated in traditional style. The scent of Vietnamese tea conquered the King, the Queen and all the participants. All the guests drank tea with delight and gave me endless compliment.
At the end of the tea party, the King and Queen of Japan approached my tea table, and said, "The tea is delicious!" The friendliness as well as warm smiles from the King and Queen as a positive energy source spreading throughout the room. General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong cheerfully told me: "You are exactly like your name, Hoang Anh Suong (it means Happiness)"
The opportunity to meet the heads of two countries brought me great joy and appreciation of what I do. Only tea can bring the Emperor from far away Japan to a Vietnamese citizen like me so close and intimate. Tea turns out to have that meaningful role. A small cup of tea is like a bridge connecting friendship and peace between the two countries. Tea is also a means of expressing hospitality and beauty in Vietnamese culture.
For me, the tea ceremony for Japanese King and Queen is a beautiful memory and also a pride that tea artisans consider a great honor.
Tea arts in Vietnamese culture
From the soil, topography, mountain air, sunshine, rain, and watering, nursing the young leaves until harvest and drying tea leaves to get a good teapot to enjoy. It is a long journey that every step, every beat must reach the art of tea and then the final destination: a cup of delicious tea is absolutely fullness.
It is no accident that in all the beverages of this human realm, tea is considered the most sophisticated art. With the same tea hill, tea grown to the east is always better than that of the west. As the tea tree towards the east receives the sun rays early in the morning, the growth response is different from that of the tea in the west. Moreover, with the same tea garden but four seasons Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter have four different flavors. The most excellent is the tea "Xuan 1" or “Tien Minh” (before the Ancestor Day). When the cold winter pass and the first sunshine of spring just dawn, the buds start sprouting on the tea scrags. If we picked those buds early in dew and bring home to dry on an iron pan, they will spread out a very unique and fresh fragrance alike aroma of a steam stickyrice bowl and its pure and sweet taste as a rock sugar clearing our throat. Our ancestors have a quote: "Drink a cup of tea, travel a thousand miles". That kind of tea used to be offered to the King in ancient times.
Along with China, Japan, Sri Lanka and India, Vietnam is home to tea plant all over the world. The vestiges of fossil tea trees have been found on the land of Hung Vuong, Phu Tho. Furthermore, many researchers also believe that tea plant appeared from the Stone Age Son Vi about ten thousand years ago. Until now, Vietnam still has over 40,000 ancient tea plantations in Suoi Giang Commune, Van Chan District, Yen Bai Province. It is considered "treasure" as well as the pride of the Vietnamese about tea.
Based on the above reason, Vietnamese are named in the list of the earliest nations enjoying tea in the world. Vietnamese way of drinking tea is also various, from the sophisticated style of the ancient kings to the popular styles of modern people. Tea is also taken to the new level and considered a great art or a religion. Tea drinkers can enjoy in silence and sometimes silence is the way to communicate. Through enjoying tea, Vietnamese people can predict the attitude of their partners and also reveal their personality and educational level.
Regarding the art of tea in Vietnam, the tea of the Hanoians is a typical example. If people of other areas like to drink tea "plain" (tea without embalming), many families in Hanoi enjoy tea embalming with lotus, jasmine, chrysanthemum ... Especially, lotus tea is a precious tea that only used to offer to guests or as gifts. Lotus tea made by Ha Giang black tea, embalming with 1,000 and 1,200 lotus flowers per kilogram of tea. It must be the lotus planted in the West Lake and have not bloomed to reach the highest level of scent. Special-priced lotus tea always fluctuates at VND8-10 million / kg. Currently, in Hanoi, only about 6 families make this kind of tea.
Tea artisan Hoang Anh Suong was born in 1973. He is the 6th generation of Truong Xuan tea. He vows to spend his life traveling throughout the country and to many places of the world to spread the beauty of Vietnamese tea culture and Vietnamese tea art. For him, it is also a way to spread happiness, nurture love and eliminate the distance between people through a cup of tea.
By Hoang Anh Suong