Sunday, 31 May 2015

Producing Green Tea in North Vietnam

Fortune Cookie


Being happy is one way to be wise

Tea growing in the shadow of Ba Vi National Park

This is a tea garden in North Vietnam on the lower slopes of the Ba Vi National Park.

Ba Vi mountain enjoys fog and plenty of sunlight. The upper slopes are mainly cloud forest.

What I like about this tea garden is that guava and bananas and coconuts are grown inside the tea terraces.

Dat, tea grower. 

Drinking Hook green tea at Dat's house.

During my visit to three tea farms in this area I drank up to 14 cups of tea a day not including iced tea at dinner. We would travel to one farm sample the tea then arrive at another nearby farm meet the farmer and drink more. Me, Thuy, Quan and Dat riding around the tea terraces on motorbikes.

Dat's mother sifting green tea after roasting.

Tea leaves wilting before roasting.

The leaves have been roasted once and rolled. They rest before a second firing.

 Next to Dat's wife Quan wears the Viet Kong's apparel the non-coi pith helmet. An army veteran of Cambodia he helped liberate Phnom Penn from Pol Pot. Quan is a barrel of energy, a kind tormentor and real fun - you can see that in his eyes here. But we also know he has seen many difficult things in his time as a soldier.

Firing the tea again.

The 5 stages of roasting this hook tea, Vietnam's most popular.

Hook tea after the 5th roasting.

Thi, on the right, is the owner of this tea garden 

And there it is - 15 kilograms of Vietnam Hook green tea.

The full production of the tea took around two hours not including the wilting which began mid-morning.

The tea leaves just after roasting. Time to try her.

In Vietnam, and almost without exception, tea drinkers like to experience a bitter taste. They prefer to leave the green leaves inside the pot with the remaining water. The liquid is bright yellow-green. Vietnamese often smell the dry the tea before drinking and sometimes chew the roasted leaves to check the provenance before brewing. It is fair to say that sometimes tea here is sold stale and the flower-scented teas often bear too sharp a perfume for them to be naturally produced. 

If you drink this Hook tea gong-fu style 3 grams with 150ml of water at 30 seconds yields good results. The tea has strength and offers multiple steeps. Leave for longer and you have a bitter cup which suits many people here. I notice the Vietnamese always place 6 grams or more into a medium pot and pour after 60 or 90 seconds. Any new water added sits in the pot for longer, while conversation opens out. The bitter flavour of the tea becomes quickly pronounced.

And Dien, a lovely lady and super vui ve, shows us her fingers after a morning of picking the spring tea. She has worked for Taiwanese growers in Vietnam. They make use of Vietnam's greater land mass and cheaper labour. She wishes more people knew about Vietnam tea.

Home in time for another cup of tea before nightfall

Happy tea drinking!

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