Posted in Kafevend Blog

Tea bricks originated in ancient China, as a means to more easily facilitate its trade and transport. They are made using either whole leaves or ground tea, compressed into a mould. Because of the use of a mould, the bricks can be imprinted with sometimes very elaborate and impressive patterns or images, particularly those made using ground tea. Whilst this form of processing is less prevalent nowadays, it still goes on to some extent, particularly with fermented teas.

Tea bricks, or Zhuānchá, are just one type of compressed tea- it is also formed into shapes such as disks and balls. The Zhuānchá was preferred in ancient China for its ability to survive the Ancient Tea Horse Road, a trading route in the Yunnan province in the south west of China. Caravans of both mules and people carrying these tea bricks would travel between China, India, Burma, Bengal and Tibet.

As well as being used for the more obvious tradition of making a drink ( see the teapot article from last week for a quick description of how it was made), like the Mesoamerican's use of cocoa beans, the tea brick was used as a form of currency. This practice was prevalent in China and Tibet along with Mongolia and Central Asia. There is something to be said for a currency you can also rely on for sustenance!

by Kafevend

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