Our Vietnamese Green is a very special green tea from the Tan Huong cooperative in Thai Nguyen, the ninth largest city in Vietnam. Thai Nguyen is found to the north of Hanoi and in the northern portion of Vietnam generally, in an area well known for tea. Tan Huong is the last surviving co-op to receive initial start-up funding from the Canadian Centre for International Study and Cooperation.
This is a very fragrant green tea from Vietnam with excellent vegetal notes, produced at a female owned co-op. Some may get hints of asparagas when drinking this tea. Vietnamese Green has long wiry twisted leaves that are emerald green in color. The infusion is a clear, bright, pale-yellow green. The Vietnamese Green mellows as it cools and makes a fine cold brewed iced tea.
Vietnamese Green Tea
The co-op was formed, along with six others, after the Canadian Centre for International Study and Cooperation (CECI), based in Hanoi, conducted a survey on a SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) analysis of the Thai Nguyen Tea area. The preliminary group, formed in 1998, were trained in skills to aid in establishing community economic groups. The following year, Tan Huong Cooperative was formed with an initial membership of 38 growers, a management board and the seed money funded by CECI; 10,000,000VND, the equivalent of $470 at today’s exchange rate.
By 2002 members received management training and were contributing to the co-op fund. At the end of that same year, membership had increased to 72 and the co-op was operating as a fully legal entity. It was at that point that CECI withdrew its support. Tan Huong is the only surviving co-op of the six that were originally funded by CECI.
Tan Huong was producing quality green tea marketed primarily for domestic sale. Quality continues to be a guiding principal for the women of the cooperative who experienced membership drop off since its highest point due to grower’s inability to maintain the standards set by the co-op management board. Growing clean teas requires more labor, oversight and paper trails and does not necessarily bring higher prices in the market. This is a tea industry issue not unique to Vietnam.
Cooperative Director Mrs. Yeip continues to be a driving force at 73 years of age. Focused on quality, Mrs Yeip and the management board are committed to making systemic improvements and welcome ideas and information from outside sources.
Tan Huong is not only vigilant in self-improvement but also in giving back. Management shares what they have learned with others in the surrounding communities, improving the quality of tea and life for everyone involved.
The cooperative wants to diversify their offerings and has been working on producing oolong teas, generally sold at a higher price in the international market. In 1997 the women began planting the appropriate cultivars to produce oolong but have struggled with quality outcomes. Recently they have aligned themselves with a Taiwanese oolong producer who is assisting them with the necessary expertise and equipment to produce oolong teas that embody the cup character necessary to make them marketable, although the oolongs we tasted need more improvement.
The Tan Huong Cooperative continues to thrive despite the existing market barriers. Doing business with them is not without challenges. They still lack key financial and transportation components that would make buying and exporting seamless. Mrs. Yeip and management is aware of these issues and continue to try and improve them to expand market reach.
Vietnam has long grown and produced teas with the practice dating back some 3,000 years and developed commercially by the French in the 1800’s. Today tea is produced throughout the country though most production occurs in the southern part of the country. The government of Vietnam considers tea a strategic commodity and has supported the growth and development of the industry and many of the growers are small farmers throughout the country.
Posted by Rona D. Roberts, PhD on 16th May 2016
A friend from Vietnam gave me a large bag of this clean tea as a gift. I don't read/speak Vietnamese so I didn't know what kind of tea this was. I brewed it for 3 minutes and from the first taste I knew that this tea was definitely different from what I have come to know as green tea. The words yummy, smooth, butter, come to mind. I had to know where this tea came from and its story. So I searched online using the words on the bag and found it! A smile came to me learning that only a group of dedicated women could've made such joy in each leave. Thank you for bringing a cup of Vietnam to me in the Dallas, Georgia USA.