Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Monk brews a brick

I picked up some brick tea at Imperial Tea Court's San Francisco Ferry Building Teahouse.

This particular brick tea was made of compressed, unground leaves, whereas some types of tea bricks are made of leaves ground into a fine powder and then tightly compressed into a dense block.

The tea was quite a different experience than green tea — after all, brick tea and green tea are at opposite ends of the fermentation spectrum — but still immensely tasty and enjoyable in its own way, woodsy and with overtones of prunes. (Yes, prunes — but without the sweetness). The flavor really transported me to a mountainous, pine-forested world.

Check out the photos below to see the brick tea in its various stages of brewing, along with the tasty finished product.

The package. The brick is surprisingly heavy, as the tea is compressed tightly to save space (for easier transport by pack horse) and for longer shelf life.

I had to used an ice pick to break off this piece of tea. Being fairly ignorant about brick tea, I used way too much dry leaf even for my largish teapot, so you can see that a single brick could brew literally gallons and gallons of tea.

After the pouring. The leaves in the brick were actually a mix of different types, some obviously less fermented than the others. This explains the layered complexity of the flavor characteristics.

Even brewed this strong, the tea was still not harsh but instead richly flavorful.

—Mellow Monk


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