Tea bricks are one of our most popular items, simply because no one in the States sees them these days. Tea bricks were how tea was transported for thousands of years. In some parts of China and India they still are. In fact, in the winter months in Siberia people used to chew them for nutrients. (Personally, I cannot imagine doing that, but needs must.)
They are actually compressed loose-leaf tea. The tea actually becomes richer and more flavorful the longer it stays in compressed form. It ages much like wine. In fact, the compression also extends the shelf-life of the tea. Some of our tea bricks are said to expire in 2020 others 2030.
If you look at the front of the large tea bricks in the picture below, you’ll see three sectors. The very top is a series of stars. This is the grade of the tea. The center section of the brick is the crest of the family that makes the tea. In this case the Lee family. The bottom section is more information about the tea, such as the province from where it comes.
Now, if you look at the back of the tea, it’s been sectioned off like a chocolate bar. This is not where you break the tea off to brew it. This is how the tea bricks were broken up to be used as currency. You could sell the small squares or break them up to give to people in exchange for other goods.
We’re spoiled these days. Tea is easy to get and relatively inexpensive. Not so when it had to take a slow boat from China. Tea was a luxury good. Some families in the 18th century even framed a tea brick to show off their wealth.
So what about our bricks? They’re new bricks from China and come in black or green. To use them, you chip or shave off tea from the side until you have about a tea-spoon. (The same amount of tea that you’d use to brew from loose-leaf.) You put this tea into an infuser and brew it like normal.
It makes one heck of a gift for the tea-lover in your life. Or even the history buff. Bet you they haven’t seen one yet!