Tea Bricks

Have you ever seen a brick of tea? It is tea leaves that have been packed into molds and pressed into a square or rectangle (or maybe a disk).  In ancient times the tea bricks could be used as a form of currency.  You can still buy tea in this form, usually Pu-erh tea.

Bricks of tea were more practical for transporting  by caravan on the ancient tea routes.  They took up less space than loose tea and after being cured, dried and aged, the bricks were less susceptible to damage.

In Tibet the people still use brick tea to prepare a beverage called butter tea, which is an essential part of their daily life.  It includes yak butter, brick tea and salt.  They drink several bowls of this tea before starting their work day.  I can only imagine what this tastes like and I’m not about to try adding butter and salt to my PG Tips anytime soon.

If you would like to try brick tea, you can buy Pu-erh (poo-urr) from many online sources.  It comes from the Yunnan Province in China.  It is the only tea which is intentionally aged.  In some cases a rare Pu-erh can be up to thirty years old.  You can expect to pay a premium price for these special teas.

The aging process is supposed to produce a rich and smooth taste.  I think of it as an acquired taste, but perhaps the quality of the tea I sampled was not up to par.  It definitely has a bold, earthy taste.  A little too earthy for my palate.

Tea bricks can be quite ornate and beautiful.  Many have intricate landscape scenes or geometric designs.  They make interesting gifts for your tea enthusiast friends, who may enjoy putting them on display.  Or you might like a simpler brick form that is meant to be brewed and consumed.  Any way you look at it, tea bricks hold a fascinating place in the world of tea.

Don’t forget to check the parTEA lady’s blog, Tea and Talk!

[Editor’s note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find them!]

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One thought on “Tea Bricks

  1. hal0zer0

    I’m fairly new to puerh teas, but I’ve found a HUGE variance in flavor from one to the next, especially the “ripe” (more-or-less “black”) varieties. They’re certainly all earthy, but do not let any one sample define the genre for you, as it will be very different from the next one you try.

    The “raw” types, in my experience, have been much easier to palette for newcomers (myself included) while developing a taste for it.

    Tea cakes also make a great conversation piece, at least in my part of the US where most people have never heard of such a thing.

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