Once the tea leaves are picked and withered, they undergo a frying process where the leaves are shaped into a slightly rolled shape, which is relatively loose. If it is not steamed and pressed immediately, it needs to be stored. Compared with the loose form, pressed tea cakes were more compact and therefore more convenient, cost effective and had better resistance against humidity. In addition, compressing tea was also to solve the transportation problems and reduce losses during the early period where transporting tea was not as convenient as today. In the early days, Puer tea was mostly stored and transported in the form of pressed cakes. Historically, one cake was 357 grams, and seven cakes were calculated as one stack, which was convenient for calculation and transportation of mules and horses.
In ancient times, tea from Yunnan was transported to Tibet and other places through the Ancient Tea-Horse Road. For long distances, tea was compressed into several shapes like bricks, cakes and tuo shapes so that it was possible to transport more tea at the same time. At that time, different shapes of Puer tea were made, and there were differences in the selection of materials and specifications. First and second grade tea were used for loose tea, third and fourth grades are used for tuocha, the seventh and eighth grades are used for tea cakes, and the ninth and tenth grades are used for tea bricks. However, in the present time, the shape of Puer tea is no longer directly related to its quality. Bricks, cakes, tuo or loose tea can be made with various specifications of raw materials. Therefore, the requirements for the shape, raw material grade or weight of the pressed tea can be changed according to the requirements of the tea factory or the customer, and various "different" Puer teas shapes started to appear in the market.
No matter which shape it is, it needs to be steamed to make it pliant for pressing. The tightness of the pressed tea is different, the storage environment is different, and the temperature and humidity are different, so the transformation after aging is also different. The tea will change in terms of flavor and taste. There is a difference. Before brewing, the tea should ‘awaken’ especially for tightly rolled or compressed tea. You can consider disassembling the tea completely or according to different parts or depending on the amount of tea to be used for brewing.