Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Tea bricks have been around for over a thousand years and were one of the most popular forms of tea in ancient China.  They were developed originally to help preserve tea and facilitate trade.  Tea bricks were preferred in trade prior to the 19th century because they were compact, portable and less likely to have damage during transportation by caravans.  They were made with ground tea leaves compressed into a block form using a mold and the shape and size varied depending on the region.  Sometimes whole leaves were used along with binding agents like flour to create dense bricks.  The bricks were imprinted with an artistic design or simply the pattern of the cloth used. 

Tea bricks were commonly used as a form of currency during the 19th and 20th century in Asia.  The compressed bricks were of uniform size and weight and also were scored on one side to preserve them to withstand physical use.  Tea bricks were preferred over metallic coins by the nomads, because they could not only be used for money, but eaten as food and brewed as a beneficial medicine.

Tea bricks can be made into beverages or eaten as food.  In ancient China their use involved toasting a broken piece to sanitize, grinding into a fine powder and whisking into hot water before serving.  Today, they are flaked, chipped or broken and then directly steeped.  Used as food in the past and now, pieces of tea are broken from bricks in Tibet, boiled overnight then mixed with butter, cream or milk and a little salt.  In parts of China, tea bricks are brewed with onion, ginger and orange.  In Mongolia, ground tea bricks are mixed with grain flours and boiling water to provide needed roughage!!

Today, many post-fermented teas, such a pu-erh,
are made from dried whole leaves and take on a variety of shapes
such as tea cakes or discs (beencha),
small dome-shaped nugget (xiao toucha),
small “bird’s nest tea” (toucha)
or a flat tea brick (fang cha).
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”
Psalm 34:8

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