Tea has been growing in northern Vietnam for over 2,000 years. The hilly terrain and ideal tea-growing climate are home to some of the oldest varietals in existence. Teas made from these plants have a character all their own. They are as distinctive and elegant as Vietnamese culture itself.
Hand Scented: This is a traditional, hand-crafted Lotus tea. The highest grade green tea is scented directly from the fragrant stamens of fresh lotus blossoms. An ancient family tradition, this Lotus Ancien is scented in very small batches with utmost care by skilled artisan tea-makers.
Flavor Profile: A delicate green tea with a clear, crisp flavor is paired with the heady, aromatic fragrance of Lotus, reminiscent of anise and vanilla.
– from Tao of Tea‘s description.
For me the scent of lotus tea brings forth images of arrowanas swimming languidly through the murky and algae-infested waters of aquariums in cheap Pho restaurants. This is not a bad thing, necessarily, but it’s not quite my cup of tea. The tea has the typical fresh aridity of most green teas, but the lotus-scenting provides an additional acrid strangeness that I did not particularly enjoy. I did not strongly dislike it, but it would not be a tea I would chose to drink regularly. The Vietnamese preferences in tea seem to lean more towards bitter and bright than the darker flavors I usually prefer. A twisted needle oolong I tried that was also Vietnamese had that same overall tone. People who favor green teas might find this tea wonderful. It is certainly worth a try, as it is very distinctive.
After reading more information about traditional methods of preparation I suspect that I may benefit from experimenting with different ways of infusing and serving this tea. I really like the idea of a lotus infused tea so it would be worth some testing to find out if the brews I prepared were not typical of what this tea ought to yield.
Preparing the lotus tea to enjoy its fine qualities is an art. Truong Xuan, an artisan in tea making, describes the customary method he uses when preparing this superior refreshment. A bronze teapot is heated up in the fireplace and because they hold heat for a long time, glazed terracotta teacups are prepared. Truong Xuan prefers to use cups that are either white or pink inside to highlight the amber colour of the tea. Before combining the water and tea, both the teapot and cups are drenched with hot water followed by placing the teapot in a large bowl. After merging hot water with the tea he allows the mixture to steep for five minute before serving the tea in the terracotta cups.
– excerpted from this good article on Vietnamese lotus tea, on Vietnam Pictorial. (Note: the article is fairly far down on the page.)
I highly recommend taking a look through Tao of Tea‘s gallery of photographs of lotus tea production in Vietnam, even if you have little interest in the tea itself. The photographs of workers surrounded by the bright pink blossoms are really wonderful.