During the years of the T'ang dynasty (618-907), tea was kept in the form of a brick, softened by warming, then reduced to powder using a grater. Once the water began to tremble, salt was added, and at the first boil, the tea powder. Too strong a boil was to be avoided, as this would cause the drink to lose all its vitality. Lu Yu noted that some were in the habit of adding onion, ginger, orange peel, or mint, a practice he disapproved of. The tea was poured directly from the cauldron into small wooden bowls.
At the end of the Song dynasty (960-1279), there was a renaissance in the art of tea. Methods of preparation evolved: the tea was reduced to a powder in a small stone mortar; a spoonful was poured into a small bowl filled with boiling water and the preparation was beaten with a split bamboo whisk, producing quantities of green foam, the "liquid froth of jade".
The third major era for tea in China came in the 14th century with the advent of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). This is when the practice began of infusing the leaves in a teapot the way we do today.
©1996: Centre d'histoire de Montréal
Picture source: Le Tao du thé en Chine, Taïwan 1983