Though he wanted to bring the flavours of northern Vietnam to Hanoi, his real passion lies in protecting the tea fields that are in danger of being destroyed. As well as an appreciation for the tea culture, he felt he needed to acknowledge where the tea came from, and aims to help preserve the tea crops before they get distributed, by “helping the tea farmers change cultivation and harvest methods to ensure the tea’s best growth.”
The teahouse’s speciality for this autumn is daisy tea. This warm floral brew costs VND50,000 for a pot for two people, or VND150,000 for the traditional ceremony tea set, which is suitable for up to six. The winter tea speciality will be ginger, perfect for those winter throats.
All of the teas stocked are sourced from trusted suppliers, and the owner himself makes the seasonal speciality tea in house.
The Yet Te tea, an ancient white tea from Tay Con Linh Mountain, is their most exclusive and finest product. It is available to take home at VND380,000 per 100g. The Long Dau green tea from Tan Cuong, Thai Nguyen, is cheaper at VND150,000 for 100g. And the Lac Son green tea harvested from hundred-year-old trees growing in the mountains of Ta Xua, Son La costs VND220,000 per 100g.
The tea ceremony is a special thing to witness, both traditional and precarious. The tea set comes with a chrome kettle over a fire, two small teapots, and a tea scoop, containing the leaves. The leaves are placed into a teapot, and the boiling water is poured over the top. This is then placed into the teacups, though not to drink just yet.
There are two purposes of this first pour, to ‘wake up’ the tea leaves from their sedentary dry state, and to heat the teacups to an ideal temperature so as not to affect the quality of the second pour. The water from the pot is discarded into a bowl and the boiling water is again poured over the leaves into the pot. The tea is then poured into the teacups ready for the consumer to enjoy. All of this is happening while a single stick of incense is burning in the centre. This ceremony dates back through the history of Vietnam and other Asian countries.
The entrance is through a street-side restaurant, hard to spot unless you are looking for it, up the old staircase into a peaceful, tucked-away room filled with traditional images, architecture and music. The service is friendly, with the knowledgeable staff happy to talk about the tradition of the tea making, and the atmosphere peaceful, with quiet classical Asian compositions playing in the background.
Thuong Tra is located at Level 3, 2E Tong Dan, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi. It’s open daily from 8am to 10pm
Photos by Sasha Arefieva