Tea World

Lesson 1

How was Tea processed in the Early Years?

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You have come to know that the practice of drinking tea has a long history in China having originated there. Although tea originated in China, during the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE), Chinese tea generally represents tea leaves which had been processed using methods inherited from ancient China. The leaves were processed into compressed cakes form. The dried tea cake, generally called brick tea was ground in a stone mortar. Hot water was added to the powdered tea cake, or the powdered tea cake was boiled in earthenware kettles, and then consumed as a hot beverage.

During the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE), the production and preparation of tea changed. The tea of Song Dynasty included many loose-leaf styles, but a new powdered form of tea emerged. Steaming tea leaves was the primary process used for centuries in the preparation of tea. After the transition from compressed tea to the powdered form, the production of tea for trade and distribution changed once again. The Chinese learned to process tea in a different way in the mid thirteenth century. Tea leaves were roasted and then crumbled rather than steamed. This is the origin of today's loose tea and the practice of brewed tea.

However, it was not until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE) that tea was prepared by steeping the whole leaves in water, like it is today. Instead of compressing tea leaves into bricks, or grinding them in a stone mill, the tea leaves were dried, rolled, and then heated in iron woks to stop the oxidation process. The brewing process simply involved steeping the tea leaves in hot water, without the need for a whisk.

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