Ancient herbal teas are fit for a king
Serving royal tea at Luc Bo in Hue. (Photo: VNA)
Recipes from the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) in Hue provide us with an
idea of the type of tea and wine consumed by the royals in the former
imperial capital city.
The recipes are now enjoying a revival and renewed interest.
Tea served to kings was not just tea. For royal family members it was a treat, with various herbal ingredients added.
Thuong vien ngu tra, for example, was a royal tea prepared by the
monarchic agency specialising in teas – Thuong Tra Vien. It is made from
11 ingredients: jasmine flower, longan, goji berry, dry tangerine peel,
licorice root, jujube, pagoda tree leaves, daisy flower, lotus plumule,
dry senna seed and of course the key ingredient – tea.
All are also used as ingredients for herbal medicine. While jasmine and
lotus plumule are used to lower body temperature, goji berry and jujube
are said to alleviate stress and pain. It is used to treat ulcers, among
other things. Licorice root is said to boost the immune system.
Longan is an herbal remedy for stomach ache and insomnia. The pagoda
tree leaves serve to counter bacteria and lower cholesterol levels.
Tangerine peels are also beneficial for lowering cholesterol as well as
According to herbal physician Phan Tan To, the mixture of those 11
ingredients creates a harmonious whole because the herbs do not counter
each others’ effects.
“This kind of tea has number of benefits, including internal heat
reduction, liver coolant, lowering blood pressure and curing insomnia,”
“Dishes served to kings were always nutritious, while tea and wine
included herbal ingredients and were served like medicine. All are safe
for one’s health.
“Tea recipes were prepared by Thuong Tra Vien then they were submitted
to Thai Y Vien, which gathered the country’s leading herbal physicians
brought together as a medical team in the royal palace for careful
checks of the benefits and side effects of every substances in the mixed
To said the recipes were documented, signed and sealed by at least two
royal herbal physicians. Physician To found these recipes in the
dynasty’s royal records and in 2013 he worked with the Hue Monuments
Conservation Centre, the governmental organisation that manages almost
all the Nguyen Dynasty’s legacy available in Hue, to revive some of the
Ingredients for the emperors’ tea recipes are available today, making
the tea products as good as they were in the service of kings, said To.
Preparation of Tinh Tam lien hoa ngu tra (royal lotus tea) took a week
of steeping in natural fragrance of lotus flowers before it was served
Tinh Tam was a pond created inside the citadel’s territory for the royal
family’s recreation. The lotus that grew in the pond was considered to
have the nicest fragrance of all lotus species.
Tea leaves were placed in the middle of each lotus flower in the early
morning and the petals held the tea through its aromatizing process.
After the tea absorbed the lotus fragrance, it was dried in a mixture of
lotus stamens to make royal lotus tea.
Today’s version cannot be as pure since lotus varieties have been changed and the environment is different.
But To said today’s version has the same benefits, which are to reduce
cholesterol levels, prevent cancer and boost the immune system of
frequent drinkers. He added that tea used in the process is grown in
organic farms in northern Thai Nguyen province and harvested