Vietnamese Tea Culture: A Beginners Guide

Tea, arguably the world’s most-consumed drink besides water, has its fair share of history in every country where it grows. You must have heard about how the Chinese and Japanese elaborate tea religions. But did you know Vietnam’s tea traditions are equally unique? In this article, we’ll take you on a journey to discover Vietnam’s intriguing tea culture. 

Tea Drinking in the Daily Life in Vietnam

Set aside the Boba tea trend, generations of Vietnamese enjoy tea on a daily basis. You can order tea after breakfast, lunch, dinner, and more. For example, after having a bowl of Pho, people will have a cup of green tea. Or after lunchtime, office workers gather around on tiny stools drinking tea and eating sunflower seeds. If you have a chance to visit Hanoi, people here will tell you how proud they are of their trà đá (iced tea) culture. No matter when it’s winter or summer, people are always seen sipping tea.

Understanding the Vietnam Tea Trail

Vietnamese tea often grows in three regions: the west-north region, Thai Nguyen province, and Bao Loc highland. To make sure you don’t get lost, here’s a map of the Vietnam’s tea-growing regions:

Vietnam tea-growing regions
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West-North Region

The majestic Hoang Lien Son range has blessed this region with an alpine climate, pure spring water, and ancient wild Shan tea trees. All hand-picked by ethnic tribe residents, this region’s tea is famous for the pure, mild taste.

Thai Nguyen

Thai Nguyen’s tea-growing history dates way back in the early 20th century. Now, it is the largest tea growing area in the North. Thai Nguyen offers a variety of small-leaf teas, with its specialty being the curly-hooked tea leaves.

Ha Noi

Although Hanoi only has a few small areas growing tea, it is still well-known for the lotus wrapped tea. The sweet, intoxicating aroma from the lotus flowers blend seamlessly with the fresh tea smell. Originating from the West Lake area, the unique tea remains a favorite until this day.

Bao Loc

Being situated on a large plateau makes Bao Loc’s climate ideal for growing tea. Now, it is one of the top tea regions in Vietnam, and much loved for the flower-scented teas.

How to Enjoy Tea the Vietnamese Way

Vietnamese can drink tea all the time, all year round. People enjoy a cup of tea from a small street stall, during family tea time, or at a traditional tea house. In Vietnam, drinking tea is like having rice every day. Many jokingly consider it as natural as breathing.

How to Choose the Water

Knowledgeable tea drinkers consider ‘first is the water, second is the tea’. That’s why they are very particular about the water. So often, tea drinkers collect dew on lotus leaves at sunrise, or from natural springs.

How to Choose the Tea Leaves

Tea connoisseurs have set out a 5-standard rule on how to choose good tea: sắc (shape) – thanh (color) – khi (timing) – vị (taste) – thần (smell). Above all, the fish hook-shaped tea leaves are the most precious kind.

How to Choose the Tea Set

Vietnamese choose the tea set based on the tam bôi, tứ bình rule. In detail, it is to have a teapot, four small cups for drinking, and one jar containing the tea. The small cup should be a little bit bigger than a jackfruit seed. Plus, choosing the jar must depend on the number of people attending the tea party.

How to Brew Tea

First, heat the teapot and cups with boiling water. Then, use a bamboo or wooden cup to pour dried tea into the pot. Next, add water for the first time and drain immediately. This is to rinse out any dust and damp the dried tea leaves. On the second pour, add water to overflow the pot’s mouth. After that, close the lit and pour boiling water over it to maintain the high temperature for the teapot. Wait for a minute or so, and enjoy the rich, seductive tea flavor.

How to Choose the Best Tea Time

A discerning tea drinker often chooses to have tea at dawn (around 5 AM). Vietnamese believe that this is when yin and yang harmonize, and when night gives way to sunrise. Having tea at this moment will benefit both the person’s health and soul.

Of course, drinking tea at such hour isn’t feasible for most people, even not for the Vietnamese. The most popular and best time to drink tea is 30 minutes after breakfast and lunch.

How to Choose the Best Tea Space

Vietnamese tea drinkers prefer a spacious area to fully enjoy the tea’s essence. The ambiance is often a bit of a meditation vibe – pure, elegant, at ease. Ideally, people would choose a place with beautiful, quiet natural scenery. Also, they can decorate the space with pictures, calligraphy, books, or a chessboard.

brewing tea Vietnamese style
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Dos and Don’ts About Drinking Tea in Vietnam


  • The young should offer tea to the old, and women to men.
  • Enjoy the tea’s aroma first, then gradually take small sips.
  • Have good tea friends. Because tea friends are good friends, who will enjoy tea together, recite poems, and express their feelings freely. To Vietnamese, finding a tea buddy is harder than finding a drinking buddy.


  • Greet guests with teacups stained with old tea
  • Welcome a guest with a cold teapot
  • Take a big cup of tea and gulp. Vietnamese consider it rude like buffalo drinking water.


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About Author

Hi there, I'm a passionate writer about all things culture, travel, culinary, and more! When not deep in writing, I enjoy a long walk by the beach and contemplating what to write next :D

1 Comment

  • Lowef
    December 5, 2020 at 11:59 pm

    Any traditional tea houses in hcmc to recommend?


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