Tea has a very important place in Vietnamese culture; the consumption of tea has been an integral part of Vietnam for centuries, tea sits near the top of the list of their export products, and Vietnam boasts some of the oldest living tea plants in the world. Perhaps its most famous specialty tea is Lotus tea, a variety of green tea flavored by the scent of the lotus flower (Nelumbo Nucifera), a flower that in Vietnamese culture represents beauty, purity, and good fortune.
Lotus tea was initially created for King Tu Duc during the Nguyen Dynasty (1802 – 1884). The story goes that at nighttime, when the nectar of the lotus flower was at its fullest, servants would row out onto the lake where lotus flowers grew, and fill the flower petals with green tea. When the flowers closed, the petals were bound together by a silk string or ribbon and left overnight. Just before the tea would be prepared the next day, the green tea was retrieved from the lotus flowers, infused with all its scent.
Another, more modern, method to make Lotus tea is by pulling the stamen (the pollen-producing organ of the flower) from the lotus flower, and placing them in a jar filled with green tea leaves overnight, or baking the tea leaves with them. Depending on the quality of the tea, as many as a thousand lotus flowers can be used to produce a single kilo of lotus green tea. These days, with modern production techniques and more affordable varieties, flavoring additives or perfumes are often used to scent the lotus tea.
The most suitable method for brewing Vietnamese lotus tea is leaving the tea to brew for approximately 2 minutes and using cooler water temperatures. If the tea is too hot or steeped for too long, it has a tendency to become bitter.