Tea History: What Is 'Border Sales Tea' (Bian Xiao Cha)?
There's a tea term known as 'border sales tea' or 'bian xiao cha' (边销茶) which basically describes teas that are sold to neighbouring regions near Yunnan.
These blocks has been a staple product for many decades among Tibetan minority groups and often used to drink pure or used to make fresh yak butter tea. Even today, Tibetan tribes love this tea. The blocks are broken apart in smaller chunks and boiled in hot water.
The Xiaguan tea factory also produces these teas in bricks, sold under their sub-brand called 'Bao Yan Pai' (宝焰牌). This literally meaning 'treasure flame brand'. We've got our hands on two of them; one shou and one sheng block. In this blog post we’re reviewing both!
Sheng (raw) tea brick
Starting with the Sheng brick with can see that it comes with a beautiful carton box with in the inside a brick packed inside a paper wrapper. Once removing the wrapper, we can see that brick’s material isn’t very consistent with many broken leaves. Not strange, knowing that this tea is boiled and used to make yak butter tea. You really don't need premium leaves for that.
The raw materials might be not premium, but never the less, we really love this product because of it’s historic value. And in fact, the flavour is actually surprisingly good, as the more broken leaves allow it ripen much faster in comparison to full leaves.
In the video below we're brewing this brick with a side handle teapot. Check it out!
Shou (ripe) tea brick
Looking at the ripe boa yan zhuang, we can see that it’s pretty heavily fermented through wet-piling. The flavor is therefore super mellow and the resulting tea soup is very dark. It's a very accessible shou pu erh as most of them are, but if you’re familiar with shou pu erhs, you can imagine it's also perfect for a strong yak butter tea.All in all, these bricks are inferior in quality compared to some pu erh made from better leaves and with some more complexity in flavor. However, these block teas can be great as a daily drinker. And because of their historical value, you might want to own at least one of them!