Vietnam – ancient tea culture and “cradle country” of the tea tree
Vietnam’s Identity as one of the evolutionary “cradle countries” of the tea tree surprisingly is still not common ground in western tea lover circles. Similarly unknown is the fact that – without any exaggeration – some of the world’s best teas come from Vietnam. The country’s ancient tea culture – rooted in the tending of wild tea tree resources through ethnic minorities – had to defy quite some challenges and time and again adopt to new situations.
In particular, the long Vietnam’s colonialization through the French, the communist revolution and the Vietnam War have left their stamp on the tea cultivation and tea production in Vietnam and influenced them lastingly. You will find more general information about Vietnam’s history as a tea producing country in our dedicated article at Siam Tea Blog,
Ancient “Thuyet Shan” tea tree in Ha Giang, Vietnam
In Vietnamese, tea means “Trà”, which – spoken correctly – sounds a lot like “Cha”. Today, besides the maintenance and cultivation of ancient tea tree reserves, tea is also conventionally cultivated. This applies especially to a range of Oolong tea cultivars imported from Taiwan. Nevertheless, when it comes to tea, the ancient tea tree reserves remain the country’s most precious treasure. Particularly sticking out here is the “Thuyet Shan” (“Snow High Mountain”) tea tree variety native to the mountainous central Vietnamese provinces Suoi Giang and Ha Giang.
Tra Thuyet Shan – Snow Shan Tea
The Vietnamese “Thuyet Shan” tea tree (thuyet = snow, shan = high mountain) is growing up to 15 meters tall. The extraordinary strength of his trunk, tightly covered with moss and mold, the long large leaves and the possibly record-breaking giant buds give additional advocacy to the idea that the Thuyet Shan could belong among the most ancient tea tree varieties in the world. In the old times, the Vietnamese used to preferably consume tea leaves fresh, i. e. without any processing. Meanwhile, however, the production of green tea, black tea, white tea and a Vietnamese black tea specialty called “Trà Pai Hao” from the leaves of the “Snow High Mountain” tea tree also looks back on a long reaching back tradition.
The variety has its name from the white color of its buds, tightly covered with long white hair. Even after processing, these are still well visible in the resulting leaf material.
‘Bach Shan Tea’, our producer partner in Vietnam, exclusively processes tea leaves and buds from the family’s own tea garden. The same is located in the Thai Con Linh mountain range, Ha Giang province, north Vietnam, at altitudes of 1400+ meters. It accommodates quite a proud reserve of 100+ years old Thuyet Shan tea trees. The plantation adheres to environment-friendly, close-to-nature cultivation principles. This way, the tea trees benefit from the input and the regulating mechanisms of a naturally grown, biodiverse environment. Moreover, the use of pesticides becomes unnecessary.
Seeds on Vietnamese Thuyet Shan tea tree
Ancient Artisan Snow Shan Trang White Moonlight Tea – Harvest Time and Picking Standard
Ancient Snow Shan Trang White Moonlight Tea is a typical large-leaf 1+2 white tea. As such, the proper picking period restricts to mere 2 weeks in spring only. The Vietnamese “Tuyet Shan Trang Tra” has a lot in common with its Yunnan equivalent, White Moonlight Tea from ancient tea trees in Yunnan. What stands out at first sight, however, is the even greater size of the white buds.
Like other Snow Shan teas, Shan Trang White Moonlight Tea comes from “Tuyet Shan” tea trees in north Vietnam’s Ha Giang province. Picking standard is only the young spring buds along with their tow adjacent leaves each. Rainfalls must have ceased for at least 3 days, before the buds for this tea can be picked. Preferred picking times are early morning and late afternoon. This is due to the prevailing cool temperatures at those times of day, which not only sooth the pickers, but also benefit the tea. The Vietnamese method of processing White Silver Needle tea resembles in principle that of Chinese pure buds white teas.
Ancient Artisan Snow Shan White Silver Needle Tea – Processing
What sticks out most with all Ancient Snow Shan teas is the virtually unparalleled diligence and passion for detail. This applies both to picking and processing. That said, the processing of Snow Shan Trang White Moonlight Tea certainly takes more than just the right equipment. Know how, good technical skill, rich experience, lots of empathy and focus, and a set of appropriately sharpened senses are all factors that are crucial for an optimal outcome.
When processing white tea, the tea leaves are left to wither for an extended period before drying. At this, the oxidation processes usually starting with withering are kept to a minimum through the control of room conditions. In this case, this means cool temperatures, low humidity and little air circulation. As there is no rolling of the leaves in white tea processing, the resulting leaf material is quite voluminous at little weight. In order to facilitate transport and storage, the producer preferably presses this tea in the form of cakes. Other than with pu erh tea, there is no ripening process taking place in such cake. However, the pressed form contributes to perserving the intense taste of Shan Trang White Moonlight Tea.
For indivual steps of white tea processing at BachShan Tea, please see this tea’s pure buds version’s product page.
The taste of the ready prepared Ancient Snow Shan White Silver Needle Tea reflects 100% the efforts invested into its processing. There are few better examples for how only best processes can yield best results. A pronounced almond note on the gum combines with a sweetness that is unusually intense for a white tea to a taste of finest marzipan. At this, other nutty notes contribute to additional depth and complexity. In the cup, the tea shows a crystal-clear bright yellow color.
For preparing Ancient Snow Shan Trang White Moonlight Tea, we recommend a common white tea preparation standard. First, pour 200ml water of a temperature of 90°C (calmed down after boiling) over 4g of tea leaves. Then, let infuse for 2-3 minutes for a delicious first infusion. Just like all Snow Shan teas, also the White Moonlight tea surprises with extraordinary potential. This means, with 1 additional minute infusion time each, the tea will produce 4-5 valuable infusions. And prepared the Chinese way – with higher dosing and shorter infusion times – quite some more.