Chinese Tea Brick

18th-19th century
Coins & Medals, Gallery 37


Tea has been the beverage of choice in China for hundreds of years. There is evidence that tea drinking was popular in the 8th century and that its use spread to Russia and Western Asia as the Mongol empire expanded from the Balkans to China in the 13th and 14th centuries.

By the 1600s, seafaring and European trade activities made tea well established throughout Europe and the English colonists introduced it to America. The use of tea as a commercial trade item probably began with heavy demand for fine Chinese tea from the Russian nobility. At first, dried leaves were transported from China to Russia by caravans of camels over the treacherous Silk Route, but maritime links established through the South China Sea facillitated easy and dependable transport of tea to Europe.