Taking after the Vietnamese coffee filter set’s single-serving design, tea filter set by Minh Long makes tea drinking a journey, a walk through layers of aroma while preserving the pure taste no matter how many brews are made.
Few people see it as a chance to turn a coincident into a life-time achievement. Mr. Ly Ngoc Minh is one of them. In the past 30 years, he’s travelled and been usually taken by his friends to many local tea houses. Despite the fact that he bought the same tea leaves at these places, what he recreated at home was nothing but a horribly bland or astringent drink. Continuous failure triggered in him endless questions and tireless trials, even offering to buy what was right on the tea maker’s hand when they were in the middle of brewing.
Heavily into finding an answer, he learned that it lied not only in the tea leaves, but also how they were brewed. After completing his research on tea making arts, he came up with an idea: traditional tea brewing tools can be simplified and replaced by an innovative tea filter design, one which allows laymen to make a heavenly good cup of tea without following too many steps.
In 2016, he kicked off the project. Not until 2018 was his tea filter set design formed with a pot, a cup, a filter chamber, a filter insert, a tea presser, a burner and tea light candles, all of which were registered to the Intellectual Property Office. Its elegant design in moonlight color incorporates well with plain white porcelain and features classic gold details.
Greetings and how people treat each other are immensely important in the culture of Vietnam. In the past one used to start a conversation by offering the other a wrapped areca. To date, tea drinking gradually replace areca chewing or wine drinking to be a gesture of friendliness. Taking a sip of hot tea is a simple pleasure. Drinking it moderately is believed a healing medicine for not only your mind but also body.
Tea, unlike other drinks, is not meant to quench one’s thirst. It should be taken slowly for the taste and aroma to blend completely in one’s palate. This special drink includes caffeine, which helps one stay energetic and feeling good. That is why tea is a good ice breaker. According to Mr. Minh, a successful business should often starts with making partners enjoy the conversation. This kind of enjoyment carries more enthusiasm later on which triggers positive business decisions. Otherwise, they only make excuses and delays.
Discussion about tea is ideal to be a smooth transition in some stressful business contexts. The topic may vary from names, origins, tastes and famous tea farms, which slows down heated conversations, re-ignites interest in partners and, perhaps, creates a chance to find things in common.
Each region has its own way of drinking tea, but surely nobody can resist its delicate scent, mild tannin and sweet after-taste. When the moon casts its magic light on the earth, one may find it a right time to sit quietly on the patio munching candied fruit or a slice of snow skin cake by a cup of aromatic tea. While adults are engaging in their chit-chat, kids gather in the front yard waiting for their treats and showing off their lanterns. Tea, therefore, becomes an inevitable part of the occasion and a reminder of festive moments.
Tea can bring so much joy, but making one is never an easy task. Since a traditional tea set cannot facilitate too complicated tea brewing process, Mr. Ly Ngoc Minh dreamed to create a breakthrough of tea making with fewer steps, yet excellent quality. He spent time on his research on tea arts and study of different tea leaves before sketching necessary tools for a new tea filter set.
Tea brewing seems easy at first glance, but each move has an implication. For instance, how the taste does not depend on the amount of tea leaves used for brewing. Rather, according to Mr. Minh’s finding, the tea pot must be cleansed in boiling water before adding leaves, which are later scalded to remove dirt, moisturize and retain the brewing temperature. These steps are to prevent disparity in temperature of tea and tea making tools, which may dilute its authentic aroma and flavor.
How tea leaves react while brewing is equally important. In some farms, after harvesting tea leaves, farmers roll them to help preserve tiny oil sacs on the leaves’ surface. These sacs help prevent insects and burst to release aroma when the leaves are submerged in hot water. Quality leaves must be collected from trees grown in rich soil to possess exceptional flavor.
From his in-depth understanding about tea, Mr. Minh started to design a new type of tea filter set that requires fewer brewing steps and easier storage conditions but produce the best tea ever.
Inspired by the coffee filter set’s design, Mr. Minh’s new tea set also includes a filter assembly. The filter chamber has a set of holes that regulate the time boiling water fills the chamber, soak all the leaves inside and drain down the cup underneath in exactly 30 to 40 seconds. This will allow your tea to achieve desirable thickness, scent and astringency.
Inside the chamber there is a filter insert and a tea presser. The former is placed in the chamber before adding tea leaves to prevent tea shreds from dropping into the cup or blocking the chamber holes, while the latter placed on the top to regulate this assembly’s temperature.
Besides, tea presser, as its name suggests, holds tea leaves in place, which retains their heat and taste perfectly up to 30 minutes, enough for brewing and suffusing oil sacs in the leaves. Normal tea pots after being scalded usually make tea leaves overly expand and the heat distributed freely, which carries the aroma away and cool the tea faster. Hence, one has to drink quickly to enjoy the warmth while tea time is meant to be slow and peaceful.
With this new tea filter set, hot water quickly soaks the leaves and drains down to the cup straight away. Shorter soaking time reduces the release of tannin, a substance that makes tea taste bitter and astringent. When finishing with the first brew, more boiling water can be added for the next. According to Mr. Minh, the making of tea presser is very “complicated and a real headache”. If it is not heavy enough, the leaves can float up and heat not distributed properly.
In order to always have hot water to make tea, Mr. Minh added a pot placed on a burner with a tea light candle inside. The distance from the candle light to the pot is carefully calculated, so that the water remains at 80-90°C, ideal temperature to make tea.
In addition to understanding the characteristics of each clay type and combining raw materials in a delicate manner, the most rigorous technique in making tea sets is to ensure precision with modern machinery. The size of each item is meticulously calculated. Any disparity in dimension of tea presser or size of holes on it may cause difficulty in fitting it into the chamber and tea filter or speed of fluid draining through.
“All items in this tea set seem very simple to make, but there is a great deal of work behind it. You know, everything has a reason. If you want to master a trade, you have to study it with enthusiasm and curiosity," said Mr. Minh. After the tea set was shaped, it took him another year to get its prototype tried and find problems that arise and needs fixing. Mr. Minh controlled the whole process which caused him many headaches. When stuck, he temporarily put it aside, then started a new cycle of research, experiment and change.
By 2018, after hundreds of trials and failures, the first tea filter set was out of the oven and made its debut in his showrooms.
The artisan’s proudest moment is when his creation comes to real life and rises with outstanding, unique features. Besides modern, luxurious appearance, the design is made for all ages, complies with the company’s one of four philosophies. Its oval shape is chosen instead of conventional round one to meet the taste of younger generations and encourage them to pick tea drinking as a new healthy habit.
Vietnamese people prefer purple sand (yixing) tea pot because of its vintage look and ability to keep tea hot and tasty longer. However, this color gives an impression of unhygienic stain for some westerners. Thanks to its “without border” design, Minh Long tea filter set is immune to stains or discoloring. And since tea drinking is divine, so is how the drink is contained. A tea pot should be covered in glossy glaze that pleases the eyes and enthrall tea lovers.
The set’s moonlight color takes its inspiration from royal antique collections however it was slightly toned down to avoid frilly feelings. This color is believed to match well with all kinds of lighting ambience and boast the tea purity. No excessive florals are used to decorate apart from gold lines and circles to elevate minimal style that its designer pursues.
Notably, the tea set requires no tea strainer. Tea leaves are brewed with the heat mostly from the tea presser instead of water. Layers of aroma exude gradually after a certain amount of hot water is added, contrary to traditional brewing where leaves are soaked for a long time and drained at once. Water is moderately heated throughout the drinking time without us spending too much time adjusting the temperature or worrying about power supply. The tea light candle flickers through a quiet, cozy night that makes it more romantic for tea lovers.
This way of making tea requires fewer tea leaves for each brew. With this filter set, a spoonful (2-3g) can serve up to six cups compared to three cups using traditional brewing set. Moreover, the taste remain consistent among cups being its first or last brew.
Refill hot water into the chamber whenever you need a new cup of tea, so that the tea is always served hot and delightful. Users can also adjust a mild or full tea body by adding a half or a full cup of water respectively. On top of that, how one stops or continues a tea session is also controlled, hassle-free, instead of being forced.
The tea sets are prepared, everyone takes their time to make their own tea. There is no need for the host to fumble with boiling water, pouring tea, or making mistake while focusing too much on a conversation forgetting to serve tea. With this filter set, two or three people can share a tea pot.
With these unique features, Mr. Minh was so confident to gift one of the tea filter sets to a friend, his companion in journeys searching for quality clay mines, and show him how to make different kinds of tea including black tea, green tea, red tea, etc., all of which result in better taste and authentic flavors.
Mr. Minh loves a Western proverb and often quote it to people he meets: "Health is human most precious asset but is guarded in the most reckless way". Therefore, in recent years, he has researched and released a series of macrobiotic porcelain products that is good for health. Tea set is one of them.
Studies show that tea contains antioxidants which fight against cancer, reduce cholesterol and protect the brain from damage. Drinking a glass of tea every day also helps regulate blood pressure, reduce blood lipids, prevent deterioration of heart and brain function, stretch the airways, etc.
“Previously, I used to do social activities outside, now I do it directly on my product. Over the years, I invested almost all my efforts to produce a series of porcelain products that are good for health,” Mr. Minh revealed.
Porcelain has very special features such as boiling chicken and eggs without water, frying at low temperatures thanks to infrared radiation. Also, because of his desire to raise awareness about public health, he was always devoted to his macrobiotic products. In spite of current selling price, all product lines from coffee filters to porcelain pots, porcelain chopsticks, still bear Minh Long losses and it takes them a longer time to break even.
In the near future, the porcelain company launches a tea set with a reasonable price ranging from VND100,000 to VND200,000 and stylish design. Mr. Minh also searched for renowned tea farming areas and famous Vietnamese tea brands to pack with his products.
The tea-drinking culture has existed for thousands of years, but the porcelain company’s founder can still invent a new set of tools, which, for him, still has a lifetime meaning. Not only does he learn a lot, read a lot, fill up his wealth of knowledge every day, he also runs Minh Long - the company that had been founded for 50 years – with a start-up spirit.
"I am always looking for new things, I always do it with passion, I am not afraid of failure, I will work for success and spread this spirit to the next generation," he said.
On the occasion of Mid-Autumn Festival 2019, Minh Long launches Moony Peace tea set with ellipsoidal design and chrysanthemum patterns symbolizing autumn. The tea set is painted in turquoise on a white porcelain background with gold lines.