Tea Culture and Life

What Is a Chinese Tea Cake?

When you explore the world of Chinese tea, in addition to loose leaf tea, you will also come across some Chinese tea cakes.

The following content provides you with information on what Chinese tea cakes are, as well as the types, methods of breaking, and storage methods of Chinese tea cakes, helping you to better understand them.

What is a Chinese tea cake?

A Chinese tea cake refers to loose leaf tea that are steamed to soften, then pressed into tea blocks using molds of various shapes, usually forming a round cake, hence the name tea cake.

A Chinese tea cake

Chinese tea cakes are not only convenient for storage and transportation but also gradually ferment and transform during storage, improving the aroma and taste of the tea.

Which Chinese teas are made into tea cakes?

  •  Pu-erh tea:

Pu-erh tea refers to a type of tea produced in Yunnan Province, China. Pu-erh tea is divided into raw Pu-erh and ripe Pu-erh, both of which are commonly made into tea cakes.
  •  White tea:

White tea is also often made into tea cakes for easier storage. White tea aged for more than three years is referred to as aged white tea. Aged white tea not only transforms in flavor during the aging process but also has notable health benefits.
  •  Other dark teas besides ripe Pu-erh:

In addition to ripe Pu-erh, many other dark teas are frequently made into tea cakes and tea bricks, including Anhua dark tea, Sichuan Bian Tea, and Fuzhuan Tea, among others.

Tea blocks & Compressed tea & Tea brick

Among the Chinese tea made into tea cakes, the above three types are the most common. Additionally, there are other types of teas, such as Zhangping Shuixian Oolong Tea and Chrysanthemum Pu-erh tea, which are also made into tea cakes.

Some teas characterized by their freshness, such as loose leaf green tea and loose leaf yellow tea, generally are not made into tea cakes as they are best consumed quickly.

How to break open a Chinese tea cake?

break open a Chinese tea cake

  1.  At the edge of the tea cake, look for a gap or a loose spot and insert the tea needle. If the tea needle doesn't go in, try a different spot a few times.
  2.  Once the tea needle is inserted, hold the tea needle and gently pry to loosen the tea leaves.
  3.  Pull out the tea needle, find another nearby spot, and insert the tea needle again, repeating the previous action.
  4.  Repeat this process about three times, and you should be able to pry off a piece of tea from the cake.

cross-section of a Chinese tea cake

In addition to being pressed into a cake shape, Chinese tea can also be pressed into shapes like bricks, bowls, and mushrooms. The method to break open these different shapes of tea blocks is similar to the method described above: insert the tea needle at the edge or protrusion and pry open bit by bit.

different shapes of tea blocks - tea bricks, tea bowls

Some Chinese teas are pressed in layers. If you can find the gap between the layers and insert the tea needle there, it will be easier to pry open.

Why are some tea cakes so expensive?

Most expensive tea cakes are Pu-erh tea cakes.

The high cost of some Pu-erh tea cakes lies in the raw materials used—the quality of the fresh leaves is very special. Some Pu-erh teas use fresh leaves from old tea trees that are over a hundred years old, and some come from specific regions (such as Banzhang Village and Bingdao in Yunnan). The limited quantity of fresh leaves from these special tea trees or specific regions, combined with their delicious and unique taste, makes them highly sought after and considered among the best loose leaf tea. Consequently, the prices of these teas rise accordingly.

In fact, the high cost of Chinese tea is not directly related to whether it is in cake form. Some loose leaf tea can also be very expensive. For example, some of the best oolong tea, such as Da Hong Pao from the core area of Wuyi Mountain, are expensive due to the uniqueness of their origin. Similarly, the high price of some hand-crafted loose leaf tea is due to the scarcity of the artisan's tea-making skills.

Premium Pu-erh tea cakes

Chinese tea is not necessarily better the more expensive it is; everyone has different preferences, and the best tea is the one that suits you. It is recommended to use a loose leaf tea sampler to try different teas and discover your favorite Chinese tea.

How to store Chinese tea cakes?

Pu-erh tea and other types of dark tea require a certain level of ventilation and humidity to age properly. Here are the conditions needed to store Pu-erh tea and other dark teas:
  •  A certain level of humidity
  •  Proper air circulation
  •  Avoid sunlight
  •  Avoid strong odors
Find more dark tea with our Dark Tea Sampler.>>>

Other tea cakes, such as white tea, need to be stored with a primary focus on sealing the tea to prevent oxidation and the loss of aroma. Here are the conditions needed to store these other tea cakes:
  •  Moisture-proof
  •  Sealed to isolate from air
  •  Avoid sunlight
  •  Avoid strong odors
Find more Chinese tea with our Chinese Tea Sampler.>>>

store Chinese tea cakes

In addition to the rich variety of tea cakes, Chinese tea offers many other types and forms worth trying. If you are already familiar with the six major types of Chinese tea and some famous Chinese teas, you might want to start exploring wild tea. If you are looking for organic loose leaf tea from China, you can find it within the range of wild teas. Wild tea is not only delicious but also makes great healthy tea gift sets for family and friends. Before purchasing, be sure to check for organic testing and certification by professional organizations to ensure you are buying qualified loose leaf tea.

We hope this article on Chinese tea cakes has been helpful and that it will enhance your enjoyment of these delicious tea cakes.

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