Chocolate and Honey : Vietnamese Snow Mountain Pai Hao Tea

Snow Mountain Pai Hao black tea (Trà Shan Tuyết Pái hảo) is a rare tea variety harvested from 300-year old tea trees in the central Vietnamese province of Ha Giang at an altitude of 1,300m above sea level. The tea is harvested in the “one leaf, one bud” fashion, which makes it one of the highest grades that you can find. The processing is mostly manual, which is becoming rare in tea-producing countries. Although fine teas can be produced with mechanical methods, a human touch makes a difference. This tea is not only one of the most beautiful black teas I’ve encountered, but also one of the most fragrant.

Fragrance is the main reason I wanted to share this tea with you. It has a rich chocolate nuance, with an undercurrent of caramel. The chocolate is complemented by a malty note, and the aftertaste is that of honey. Despite these voluptuous notes, the tea is not heavy on the palate. It remains refreshing and sparkling.

Another fascinating aspect of exploring this tea is learning about Vietnamese tea culture. Vietnam is one of the oldest tea-growing regions in the world, with its tea traditions dating as far back as 2000 years. Today Vietnam grows more than 150 tea varieties, including ancient tea trees like ones that produce Pai Hao black tea.

If you’re familiar with the neatly trimmed tea plantations from other parts of Asia, the sight of these tall, gnarly trees covered with white moss is striking. Tea trees can live for thousands of years, but in many places they are cut down after about 40 because modern cultivars don’t produce the same quality of flavor as they get older. Drinking tea harvested from trees that have survived centuries–centuries of wars, colonialism and other calamities–is a humbling and moving experience.

How to Brew (Hot)

Add 5g into a 150ml tea pot. Boil water and cool to 80-90C/176-194F. Steep the tea for 30 seconds – 1.5min, depending on whether you want a lighter or darker tea. Empty the tea pot completely. For the second infusion, steep the tea for 1 minute. For subsequent infusions, 1-2 minutes would be enough. This tea can be infused 5-6 times.

If you prefer to brew this tea gong fu style, using a gaiwan, you can try infusing it for 10 sec, 20 sec, 30 sec, 40 sec and 1 minute to release the flavors gradually. This tea is wonderfully versatile and easy to brew.

How to Brew (Cold)

Here is another delicious brewing technique. Add 5-10gr of Pai Hao black tea to 500ml of cold water. Place in the refrigerator for 8 hours or keep at room temperature for 2 hours. Strain and enjoy. Cold brewed tea has a particularly sweet aroma with a lingering honeyed aftertaste.

In Europe, you can buy this tea from Siam Teas, a German tea shop specializing in artisanal teas. I now order from them regularly and I recommend them wholeheartedly.

Of course, if you have your favorite tea or tea shop in your town, please let me know in the comments. 

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Bernadette Saeuberli: Hello Victoria,

    Thank you for introducing this Vietnamese tea . I’m a passionate tea drinker but have never heard of this tea. I grew up in a Vietnamese tea drinking household and the 2 teas we loved were ” lotus” and a green tea from the forest of Hai Dang. Hà Giang is a very beautiful mountainous region in the north-east of Vietnam. Now you’ve given me a reason to go back and visit these ancient tea trees. Thank you. February 16, 2024 at 9:59am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m drinking the green tea version of this variety and it has a taste of pineapple and magnolia. Simply enchanting ! I also want to go and visit that area again. February 16, 2024 at 10:08am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, and I also like Vietnamese lotus tea. It has such a lovely scent. February 16, 2024 at 10:08am Reply

  • Meredith A Russell: I am inspired to order some of this – it sounds fantastic! Also love that teapot in the picture.

    Thanks for all you do, I read you always, but don’t comment much. February 16, 2024 at 10:03am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s such a nice discovery! Thank you for reading and for commenting. Glad that you enjoy my blog. February 16, 2024 at 10:09am Reply

  • Bregje: That sounds delicious February 16, 2024 at 2:02pm Reply

  • Judy: This tea sounds delicious. Where does one buy it in the U.S.? I looked for it on Amazon but did not see it. February 16, 2024 at 8:57pm Reply

  • Kathy: I seldom use loose tea, though I enjoy trying new teas. When you mentioned subsequent infusions, do you only do that at the same tea time? If not, how do you store the wet tea? February 17, 2024 at 3:54am Reply

    • Victoria: At the same tea time. I just add hot water to the leaves. But be sure to keep the tea pot open in between infusions to avoid leaves overheating and releasing bitter flavors. February 17, 2024 at 3:57am Reply

  • nozknoz: Ching Ching Cha is a special Chinese tea shop in Washington, DC:

    I don’t really know tea of this level but rather just happened to pass by one day. In the 90s, the space was a shop for decorators where I was delighted to find Agraria potpourri. This time I bought packets of dried osmanthus flowers, rose buds, and a Chinese herbal tea with dried jujubes and other fruits. I plan to return and learn to appreciate it out as a tea house. February 17, 2024 at 1:48pm Reply

  • Kathy: Commenting again to say that I tried Snow Mountain Pai Hao black tea from Siam Tea. The shipping is expensive to the USA, but for a special treat I thought it was worth it. Thomas the owner was very ready to email suggestions and included a lovely sample. My experience of the tea hot is close to what you describe, fragrant, flavorful and light on the palate. Not to go on, but I also tried Siam Tea’s intriguing unsmoked Lapsang Souchong. I just love it. After decades as a coffee person who liked tea, I’m beginning to understand why someone would love only tea. March 9, 2024 at 8:18am Reply

  • Marie: Hello Victoria! I loved this article about Vietnam tea. I traveled there years ago (1994-95!) and I would love to return there. Do you know any places in Vietnam where it’s possible to drink this tea? Do you have any nice tea house to recommend ? (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh ou any other place in VN…) . Thank you so much . Love from Brazil. April 12, 2024 at 2:20pm Reply

What do you think?

Latest Comments

Latest Tweets

Design by cre8d
© Copyright 2005-2024 Bois de Jasmin. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy