Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tea Brick - what is it and how to use it

It looks like a back tile or tablet, beautifully carved with exotic designs.  But really it's just tea.

Alright, true, there is no such thing as 'just tea.'  Tea is a vital part of many people's lives be it the English Cuppa or a plant deeply steeped in Asian history.  This tea brick is no exception.

Created for easy transportation of an essential resource, and a trade currency, these tea bricks have a very important history.  One store I know calls this the 'tea of the nomads'.  These bricks are as beautiful as they are romantic.

I've been in love with the idea of these since I first saw them many years ago.  But whenever I came across one for sale I was too cowardly to take the plunge.  Lately I've had more food related courage, so when I this opportunity arrised, and there was this beautiful block of tea for sale a very reasonable price, I snatched it up.

For the first experiment with the tea block I got out one of my more exhotic tea pots (I'm a bit of a teapot hoarder, I should really do something about that, maybe later).  This one is shaped like a flower which I've never seen in real life, but I imagine it is the lotus so often described in poetry.  A special tea deserves a special tea pot.

I took a sharp knife and shaved some tea dust off one end of the tea block, put it in the tea pot and poured just off the boil water over the tea dust.  Just off the boil is basically bringing the water to a full boil, then taking it off the heat and leaving it several seconds until the water stops bubbling, before pouring it into the teapot.  I didn't want to risk scorching the tea incase it was green tea which loses some of it's deliciousness when the water is too hot.

The tea in this block is very much like what we call black tea in the west.  Only it has a lighter taste and texture to it.  Like a more delicate version of a cuppa.

The tea dust expanded in the water and sunk to the bottom, making it easy to keep most of the tea leaves in the pot, with just a bit leftover at the bottom of the cup for telling your fortune if so desired.  I saw an indistinct blob, not sure what that means for my future, perhaps new glasses?

So that's one way to use the tea block.  Here's a list of things I've thought up, some I've tried, some have yet to be experimented with.

  • Make some tea, mmmm, tea.
  • Use it as decoration or photography prop.
  • Make roasted tea - save off some dust with a sharp knife, toast it lightly in a dry fry pan, then make tea - haven't tried this yet, but hope to this morning.
  • Make butter tea or other yummy food with it.
  • Keep it in your emergency kit for when the zombies come.  This tea is a preppers dream.  So long as it stays dry enough, it will keep forever.  It's lightweight for the amount of tea, and great for replenishing people's electrolytes.  

I debated whether or not to write the last point, for fear that the demand for tea bricks would skyrocket.  Then I remembered only 4 people read this blog, so I think we're safe for now.

  •  Another way to make this tea is to shave it off, roast it, then grind it into an extremely fine powder to make a drink like match, only darker.  You take the powder and a little bamboo whisk.  You whisk the tea into the hot water until it's almost emulsified.  Difficult skill to master, to be sure.  But a delicious one nonetheless.  

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