Each May, Hanoi’s lotus ponds burst into bloom

May is lotus season in Hanoi. Hanoians buy lotus blossoms from street vendors to decorate their homes, or travel to the lotus growing villages by West Lake to enjoy some mild lotus tea. It’s lovely to sip lotus tea beside a lotus pond covered with pink blossoms.

Lotuses from West Lake are well known throughout Vietnam. They’re called “Hundred Petal Lotus” because of their size. On average, each lotus contains 100 petals. Some have up to 120 petals. At their peak, the lotuses bloom larger than an adult’s palm. The pale white anthers are relatively large, even and fragrant, making them ideal for producing lotus tea.

In the middle of May, the lotuses burst into bloom. Visitors who stop by the lotus tea villages in Quang An in Hanoi’s Tay Ho District find an impressive sight. Lotus blossoms are meant to be picked at 5am, when the flowers are half shut and the fragrance is mellow. Upon being picked, the anthers are removed. They have a wonderful scent and are prized by tea-makers. The anthers are quickly filtered to preserve their fragrance. A hundred lotuses will yield only 100 grams of this prized substance.

Tea-makers use pure raw green tea of high quality, which they wrap in lotus petals. The dried tea is wrapped into smaller lotus petals, which are called “tea nuzzling lotuses”. After two days wrapped in the petals, the tea is mixed with lotus anthers, colloquially called “nuzzling grains”. This is the most important step and may be performed up to seven times, each lasting several days. The tea is mingled with the fragrant lotus anther and absorbs its sweet scent.

In late spring, both visitors and locals head for lakeside lotus villages in the early mornings. They take photos of the flowers, and buy cups of mild lotus tea. No visit to Hanoi in May is complete without enjoying this simple yet refined pleasure.