The Vietnamese habit of having tea, betel, or a cigarette as a prelude to conversation is even referenced in the folk saying "a quid of betel and areca-nut starts the ball rolling".
Drinking tea, once restricted to the noble classes of society, is now enjoyed by people from all walks of life.
People manifest a belief in the importance of pleasure. Drinking tea is a preliminary ritual for a wide range of important occasions, including conducting business, scholarly meditation, getting acquainted, serving guests at home or at parties, romance, and sometimes just to satisfy one’s thirst.
Tea, known as “tra” in Vietnamese, can be divided into three kinds—dried tea leaves, tea combined with herbal remedies, and tea scented with flowers. For green tea people prefer brewing it hot and strong and sometimes flavoured with lotus, jasmine, or chrysanthemum flowers.
The therapeutic and medicinal functions of tea are well known for their incongruously cooling effect in both hot and cold weather conditions.
The unique and exquisite lotus tea is one variety especially popular during Tet –Vietnam’s traditional Lunar New Year festival. The people of Trang An (ancient Hanoi people) were renowned for their lotus tea making and drinking. The lotus is seen as a pure and serene flower that gathers the essence of heaven and earth in its scent.
Drinking lotus tea is an elegant feature of the Hanoi lifestyle. Locals say they have to pick lotus flowers when they are first in bloom and keep the petals and pistils fresh without a single rip of tear, a painstaking process of mixing them with green tea leaves many times.
It is believed that the best lotus flowers are collected from the ponds of Quang Ba Village near West Lake in Hanoi or from Tinh Tam Lake in Hue City because the blossoms grow larger and more fragrant.
Jasmine tea, also made from green tea leaves but scented with jasmine flowers, requires special preparations. The jasmine flowers are harvested during the day and stored in a cool place until nightfall to preserve their full fragrance.
They are then layered over green tea leaves and every step of the scenting process is done by hand.
The Vietnamese regard drinking tea as a gesture of hospitality that binds people together. They often invite their friends or neighbours to come for a chat over a small cup of tea that is commonly sipped to savour its delicious after taste.
Nowadays, young Vietnamese are inclined to seek the comfort of nostalgia by learning the intricacies of their cultural tradition.