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Slab of compressed tea, China, before 1930

Slabs of compressed tea were often important trade items. This was particularly the case between China and Russia. This tea brick is made of compressed tea fragments. These can be broken down and prepared as a drink when required. Tea in China treated ailments by cleansing the body. It was also drunk to improve wellbeing. For many centuries, tea was a safer alternative to drinking water. Water could taste unpleasant and was often contaminated. It carried diseases such as cholera. This block shows the process of making tea bricks. It is highly detailed. It even shows a man holding his foot because he has dropped a box on it. The fragrant tea brick was included in the Chinese Medicine exhibition at the Wellcome Institute in 1966.

Object number:

A190121

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Glossary:

Glossary: trade

Refers to the willing exchange of goods. Also defined as the activity of buying, selling, or bartering commodities.

Glossary: relief

Use for images, especially pictorial compositions, executed in relief - a surface that has been carved, molded, or stamped so that an image or design projects from or is sunk into a continuous surface.

Glossary: pharmacy

The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.

Glossary: tea

slab of compressed tea often with images moulded in relief.