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Pu-erh Tea Shapes

Pu-erh is compressed into a variety of shapes. Other lesser seen forms include, stacked "melon pagodas", pillars, calabashes, yuanbao, and small bricks (2-5cm in width). Pu-erh is also compressed into the hollow centers of bamboo stems or packed and bound into a ball inside the rind of various citrus to absorb the flavors from that rind.

Common name: Bing, Beeng, Cake, or Disc

Chinese characters: (S) 餅茶  (T) 餅茶

Pinyin name: Bingchá

Description: A round, flat, disc or disc-shaped tea. Size ranges from as small as 100g to as large as 5kg or more, with 357g, 400g, and 500g being the most common. Depending on the pressing method, the edge of the disk can be rounded or perpendicular. Also commonly known as Qīzí bǐngchá (七子餅茶, literally "Seven units cake tea") due to the fact that often seven of the bing are packaged together at a time for sale or transport (the number will vary with the size of the bing).

Common name: Tuocha, Bowl, or Nest

Chinese characters: (S) 沱茶  (T) 沱茶

Pinyin name: Túochá

Description: A convex knob-shaped tea with size ranging from 3g to 3kg or more, with 100g, 250g, 500g being the most common. The name for "tuocha" is believed to have originated from the round, top-like shape of the pressed tea or from the old tea shipping and trading route of the Tuojiang River. In ancient times, tuocha cakes may have had holes punched through the center so that they could be tied together on a rope for easy transport.

Common name: Brick

Chinese characters: (S) 磚茶  (T) 磚茶

Pinyin name: Zhuanchá

Description: A thick rectangular block of tea, usually in 100g, 250g, 500g, and 1,000g sizes. Zhuancha bricks are the traditional shape that was used for ease of transport along the Ancient Tea Horse Road by horse caravans.


Common name: Square

Chinese characters: (S) 方茶  (T) 方茶

Pinyin name: Fangchá

Description: A flat square of tea, usually in 100g or 200g sizes. They often contain words that are pressed into the square.


Common name: Mushroom

Chinese characters: (S) 紧茶  (T) 緊茶

Pinyin name: Jinchá

Description: Literally meaning "tight tea," the tea is shaped much like túocha, but with a stem rather than a convex hollow. This makes them quite similar in form to a mushroom. Pu-erh tea of this shape is generally produced for Tibetan consumption, and is usually 250g or 300g.



Common name: Melon, or Gold melon

Chinese characters: (S) 金瓜  (T) 金瓜

Pinyin name: Jingua

Description: A shape similar to túochá, but larger in size with a much thicker body that is decorated with pumpkin-like "stripes". This shape was created for the famous "Tribute tea" (貢茶) that was made expressly for the Qing Dynasty Emperors from the best tea leaves of Yiwu Mountain. Larger specimens of this shape are sometimes called "Human-head tea" (人頭茶) due in part to its size and shape, as well as the fact that in the past it was often presented in court in a similar manner to severed heads.