Tea Review: Vietnamese Lotus Tea
Tea Review: Vietnamese Lotus Tea

I am in love…

A couple of courses ago I had to pick a tea, a region, and a process and explain what I have learned about the chosen tea to my professor as my final assignment.

I panicked.  Up until that point I had been lazily wandering around (metaphorically speaking) Sri Lanka and all things wonderfully Ceylon.  Having to focus on one tea from one area, using a specific process was freaking me out.  There are only a million different beautiful options. I was thinking too broadly. I got caught up in my own head because, as you might have started to gather, I am really a Type B personality.  I do not have my ducks in a row. I do not have my life set up in tidy little boxes.

And then I accidentally stumbled across something online…the Vietnamese Lotus Blossom Tea. Now, lotuses have a special place in my world. They are indicative of Buddhism and have special meanings across a few cultures and religions. I carry a lotus tattoo on my forearm, as does my daughter – matching tattoos we got after my battle with cancer.

But, what ‘is’ Vietnamese Lotus Tea?  It is pretty freaking special is what it is.

Historically speaking, it was the favourite tea of King Tu Duc during the 19th century – Nguyen Dynasty. His servants would row out to the lotuses grown in the Imperial water gardens, gently pry open the lotus blossom, insert the green tea and tie it with a little string. Leaving it overnight, they would row back out, remove the tea, and along with morning dew (ew, but whatever) serve it to the King.

Now, I had to find some. A couple places in Toronto I go to didn’t have it. But I was able to locate it at The House Of Tea on Younge Street. The purveyor of the establishment is so lovely, I just want her to have tea with me every single day!

But back to the tea…

While the romanticism of paddling out to the lotus flowers every morning is lovely, it is obviously antiquated.  The methods of creating this tea now are much less tasking, but still mammoth in its creation. It takes between 1,300 and 1,500 lotus blossoms to scent about a kilogram or slightly over 2 lbs. of lotus tea.

The dry leaf is jade in colour – and I find it to almost have a soft blue tinge to it. The leaves are tightly twisted and the aroma is definitely a faint anise.

When brewed the liquor is a pale, light amber colour with an extremely clean flavor. It is crisp and astringent. It has a vanilla undertone, and, don’t let anyone fool you, it has a strong anise taste that not everyone will love. But for those of us who still dream of good black licorice, it is amazing.

However, there is a huge caveat: the issue with Lotus Tea is making sure you brew it precisely. It is a prickly little bugger to be sure, so you must make sure your water temperature is no more than 80 C or you will bring about a wicked bitterness. I also do a quick wash first – pour water over the leaves, swirl, and then discard the water – and then fill my cup with about 6 ozs of water for every 2.8 grams of tea. I find that if you have a professional cupping set, these measurements are perfect for this tea.

And the kicker? You must brew Lotus Tea for 3 minutes, AND NOT ONE SECOND OVER. Becuase we found out the hard way that a difference of 30 seconds to 1 minute of an over-brew made the tea go from beautiful to horrible. Like, completely undrinkable. I promise unless you want to try for your own empirical evidence, do not do it.

Lotus Tea has a strange little bitterness to it that is almost addictive. Much like myself, you do not want to mess with it.

I love this tea so much – so I think I am off to brew a cup, curl up with the kitten, and enjoy this beautiful Canadian autumn.

Have a lovely day tea-folk!

~ tee