It was nearly five years ago that Carrie Pagels made mention of "brick tea." I don't even remember now how it came up, but I believe she'd purchased some from a local plantation home and was offering it to one of us here at CQ as thanks for helping with a project. Now, I had no idea what in the world she was talking about. And so far as I could tell in my search, she's never talked to us about it on the blog. So I decided to resurrect the post I'd done on my own blog 5 years that talked about this fun tea and what I learned about it after this arrived in the mail:
The moment I withdrew this brick from its bag, the scent of tea wafted up to me. My daughter, who runs to the kitchen the moment she senses a package being opened, rushed out just then, saw the brown-paper-wrapped block, and said, "What's that?"
My answer was to hold it out and say, "Smell."
You should have seen her eyes light up with delight and disbelief as she squealed, "Tea?!"
Tea has been a staple of many societies for centuries. But loose leaf tea is hard to transport, so back in the days of the silk road in Asia, the Chinese discovered that if they use forms to press the tea into standard sized bricks, they can transport them with ease, and the tea lasts through the journey.
This became such a standard that tea bricks could be used as currency, and this was the way most tea was transported for hundreds of years, all the way into the 19th century. So the tea tossed into Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party? That was bricks.
Naturally, when something is used so long, for so many purposes, there comes to be a rhyme and reason to each part of it.
I don't know if you can read the label on this, but if you do, you'll find its "translation"--what each part of it means.
The front of this particular brick has details that let buyers know that this tea comes from a company managed by more than one person, and is manufactured by Enterprise Company Tea and the Chinese Lee family.
The back of the brick is separated into squares that can be used as currency. One square, for instance, might equal the price of a chicken.
In addition to being brewed, the tea traditionally pressed into bricks can also be eaten. I don't intend to try that, gotta say.
I thought for sure, five years ago, that I would immediately start breaking bits off and using them. But I didn't. Because it was so pretty and interesting, my Brick Tea still occupies a place of honor on my hutch. Occasionally I pick it up and smell it. And tell myself that maybe someday I'll brew myself a cup with some real history.
But mostly, I just love looking at it and knowing what it represents.
Roseana M. White pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two small children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels and novellas, ranging from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her new British series. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to make their way into her novels…to offset her real life, which is blessedly boring. You can learn more about her and her stories at www.RoseannaMWhite.com.