Preserving the soul of ancient teas

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A tea party should include at least three people to talk with each other, while a wine party should have four, and two should travel to share the joy and sorrow! This idea has been passed through generations in which drinking tea is ranked at the first place.

In many cultures around the world there are specific sub-cultures involving tea, including Japanese tea ceremony, Chinese tea art, Myanmar’s tea and Indian tea. However, often times Vietnamese tea culture is left out of the conversation.

Is there a Vietnamese tea ceremony?

It is difficult to answer because if a tea ceremony must include proper standards, then Vietnam does not have a tea ceremony. However, if it is a tradition or a habit and a style, then Vietnam features an historical tea ceremony.

In a warm space filled with light music, holding a cup of Ta Xua ancient tea, Mr. Nguyen Dinh – a collector of antiques, teapots and different kinds of tea around the world in HCMC, shares interesting stories about his passion during more than 17 years, including the art of enjoying Vietnamese tea.

His passion was started very accidentally. He was visiting a friend and was invited to enjoy a cup of Chinese tea, which made him study a wonderful world of tea.

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After many years, he traveled to a variety of countries with historic tea cultures including, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan. As well as famous European tea restaurants such as Chaikhana in Gamla Stan ancient quarter, Stockholm, Switzerland, Fortnum and Mason in London, Mariage Freres – the most ancient tea restaurant in Paris, France opened on June 1st, 1854.

Along with the passion of tea, he is also keen on antiques, which comprise tea making facilities. The bigger his passion of tea became, the more time he spent studying antique tea pots.

His first requirement to collect teapots is that the “teapot must be usable”. It is an exciting experience when the past and present souls are filled in the flavors of tea.

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He has not collected many Vietnamese ancient teapots because during the prosperous period of ceramics from the Ly, Tran and Le dynasties, teapots were burnt in low fires are now not able to be used for making tea. Vietnamese teapots in his collection are composed of a teapot of Chu Dau, Le dynasty in the 15th century, a bronze teapot of the Nguyen dynasty in the 18th century and a teapot of Lai Thieu, Bien Hoa in 1940s – 1960s in the 20th century. Each teapot features different shapes, materials and designs.

 “First: water, second: tea, third: tea making and fourth: teapot”

Chinese people are always proud of four precious objects: Suzhou silk, Zhisha teapot, water-color painting and Jingju. It was not accidental that Zhisha teapots were picked up into the list of national precious objects.

The pinnacle of Zhisha teapot craftsmanship is the art of making the pot. A teapot artisan must be able to make perfect teapots, create souls from the marvelous patterns, a calligrapher to make the writings more artistic and a composer to convey the natural sound to make each teapot a long violin performance.

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All collectors of Zhisha teapot’s can understand the saying that “first The Duc, second Luu Boi and third Manh Than” referring to the quality, artisans, and workshops that made the teapots. At present, it is not easy to own one of these teapots. Luckily, he collected three of them. Manh Than was ranked at the third place, however, in his eyes, it is the most beautiful one because in addition to its shape, it also had interesting poems carved into it.

Other precious teapots in his collection are a Chinese teapot from the Qing dynasty which tells the tale of seven meek people in the bamboo garden, teapots of the In Jen reign, and teapots from wrecked ships in the Ca Mau sea originated from Jingdezhen, Jiangxi.

In addition, the collection also features teapots from Europe, Japan and Malaysia. He collects not only teapots but also more than 200 kinds of tea from all over the world: from Chinese teas such as Olong, Tie Guan Yin, Da Hong Pao, Zhu Ye Qing, Cold tea, Puer and Long Jing to teas of Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and Taiwan as well as European teas such as mixed tea with lavender of France, earl grey tea of England and black tea of Switzerland.

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The most wonderful teas in his collection are Vietnamese ancient teas taken from Ta Xua (Son La), Tua Chua (Dien Bien), Suoi Giang (Yen Bai), bitter tea (Cao Bang) and Shan Tuyet (Ha Giang). These teas are precious ones from Vietnam in the map of ancient teas of the world.

For many years collecting teas and traveling to many regions of valuable ancient teas in Vietnam, Nguyen Dinh is always wishing that Vietnamese teas will be preserved and developed, for younger generations. In addition, Vietnamese tea can affirm its position in the world’s market. More importantly, the culture of our ancestors will be kept and passed to later generations.

 

Further information:

The collection of valuable teapots has not been shown in public. You can meet, talk and enjoy precious tea as well as contemplate this collection of Mr. Nguyen Dinh and other collectors at Ham Ruou Vang (Wine Cellar) restaurant, 13 Bui Thi Xuan, Dist. 1, HCMC.