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!