Life Life

04/02/2020 - 10:42

Delicate ‘Tea Waitresses’

Only in early twenties, the ‘Tea Waitresses’ prove to have a sound understanding about Vietnamese tea culture, inspiring guests with cups of tea.

Their delicacy is shown through their advice on the choice of tea, and their selection of tea sets suitable to different seasons and different types of guests.

A ‘tea waitress’ is a term to refer to a lady who has thorough understanding about tea and tea-making techniques. This work requires her patience, passion and delicacy so that she can make good cups of tea retaining the original flavor.

With four-and-a-half-year experience, tea waitress Ho Ngoc Anh tactfully sat down, laid the tea set, including a teapot, a bowl cup, a filter, and teacups, on the table. Ngoc Anh put some tea into the teapot, poured in boiling water into the pot, and warmed the teacups and gently looked at the steam to estimate the suitable temperature for each type of tea that guests enjoyed. The guests were excited at the tea flavor while she was serving cups of tea to them, skillfully on every single finger.

Ngoc Anh is very familiar with tea because her parents always had a tea set on the table when she was young, and the image of family members sitting together enjoying tea has been deep in her mind.

I used to think that making tea is simply to put the tea in the pot with boiling water and then pour it into teacups. When I started working at the teahouse, I learned more about tea, I have realized that making tea is an art. A tea waitress needs to well understand tea, make distinction of different types of tea and know how to make each type properly.

It is not appearance, but diligence and passion for tea are the required qualities for a tea waitress. Being a tea waitress also help young ladies to become humble, gentle and nimble.

The young ladies were taught the history of tea, tea-making methods as rituals. Despite it being one guest (solo serve), two guests (duo serve), and three, four or many guests (multiple serve), the method of tea making and serving will remain. The delicacy of the tea waitress is shown in her choice of the tea set for guests; for example, she will use the higher pot and teacups to keep the warmth longer in winter, and lower pot and teacups to cool the tea faster.

A delicate tea waitress will bring guests tasty cups of tea.

The serving manner of the tea waitress indicates her sensibility. She estimates the age of the guests and serves the older first. Her gentle gestures and her slight bow showing respectful attitude and hospitability seem to make the tea tastier. 

Phan Thi Luu Ly, a tea waitress at Di Nhien teahouse, is a second-year student at Hue Medical College, who works part-time for experience and day-to-day expenses. Luu Ly said that all about tea she used to know was a set of tea pot and six teacups, and she did not expect that tea-making is so meticulous.

The most difficult to Luu Ly is to describe the taste of tea to convince the hard-to-please guests. A tea waitress needs to have an insight into tea and an attractive speech manner so that she can draw the guests’ attention and make them understand the value of the tea they are enjoying. Even when the same tea is used, the tea-making skills of the tea waitress, including her estimation of temperature and duration, and the serving manner, also determine the quality of a tea serve.

Le Thi Thuy Tien, first-year student at the University of Economics, Hue University, is a tea waitress at Sala Teahouse. She said she chose to work there because the peaceful atmosphere has brought her true feelings. Guests visit the teahouse to enjoy the tranquility and escape the busy noisy life out there.

“Guests don’t usually ask for the luxury of the tea set but they really care the cleanliness, tidiness and delicacy of the tea waitress, which can be judged through the shiny or tarnished teacups, the tea-pouring manner and the volume of music being played,” said Thuy Tien.

According to tea waitresses, in addition to tea-making skills, their mood somehow influences the taste of tea. As goes life, tea waitresses can be on and off in terms of emotion, but as professional waitresses, they have to balance their life. Only when they are in a good mood, they are able to make the tastiest tea for guests.

A delicate tea waitress will bring guests tasty cups of tea.

Le Thanh Tinh, a tea lover from Phu Nhuan Ward, Hue City, said, “the hobby of drinking tea needs not only good tea but also delicate tea waitresses who have insight into tea in order to serve guests well and bring them tranquility.”

Tea waitresses often have good memory. They remember the guests and their tastes. Different from waiters and waitresses at the coffeehouses, where they only bring the menu, get the order and serve guests with the drinks, tea waitresses are allowed to talk with guests to understand their lives. Some of the guests have become their friends from talks about tea and tea-drinking hobby.

Story and photos: PHUOC LY