Cha Gao is a kind of solid instant tea. Tea juice is separated from the fibrous matter in the tea by special technology, and then the tea juice is processed into solid. Cha means “tea” and Gao means “paste”, so Cha Gao is literally called “Tea Paste”.
Generally, Cha Gao is made from Pu-erh tea. We can say that Cha Gao mainly refers to Pu-erh Cha Gao or Pu-erh instant tea. Pu-erh Cha Gao has a history of more than 200 years. Since the birth of Pu-erh Cha Gao, it had become the exclusive health care product for the royal family during the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912).
1. History of Cha Gao
The rudiment of the Cha Gao began in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). According to <Spring and Autumn Annals of the Ten Kingdoms>, as early as 937 AD, Cha Gao had appeared and was paid to the imperial court as a tribute tea.
And according to <The Classic of Tea> written by Lu Yu around 780 AD, the emergence of Cha Gao had a direct relationship with the making techniques of tea cake in the Tang Dynasty.
After the tea is made into cake shape, there will be tea juice spilling onto the surface of the tea cake. Under the action of air oxidation, the tea juice will become tea paste. Lu Yu discovered this phenomenon and wrote it in his book. He believed that tea cake with paste is a high-quality tea.
Strictly speaking, the Cha Gao of the Tang Dynasty is not the real Cha Gao. The real Cha Gao formed in the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
In the Song Dynasty, the custom of tea drinking was quite popular. The tea makers paid more attention to the phenomenon of tea paste. They used the juice extraction process to successfully separated the tea juice from the tea leaves and made it into Cha Gao.
Since then, Cha Gao, as an independent tea product, had been included in the tea list of Song Dynasty, and is the representative of high-quality tea.
Unfortunately, this production technology of Cha Gao stopped abruptly in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty ordered that tea should be made into loose tea. Cha Gao disappeared.
In the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912), with the prosperity of Yunnan Pu-erh tea, the production of Cha Gao appeared again. The tea makers in Yunnan used the large cauldron to boil Cha Gao.
During the Qianlong period of the Qing Dynasty (1736-1795), due to the quality problems of the Cha Gao made in the large cauldron, the emperor directly moved the production into the imperial palace, and the production technology was greatly improved. The Cha Gao in the imperial palace is made from Pu-erh tea. Since then, Pu-erh Cha Gao officially appeared.
In 1792, Cha Gao began to be introduced to other countries.
In modern times, with the continuous improvement of science and technology, the technology of Cha Gao has been greatly improved, avoiding the volatilization of aromatic substances and the destructive of active ingredients, so the modern Cha Gao is better in quality and taste.
2. Types of Cha Gao
There are two types of Pu-erh Cha Gao, one is black Cha Gao, and the other is green Cha Gao, which is dark green.
As for black Cha Gao, it is also can be divided into many sub-products, and the quality and appearance of each are different. Here are three famous black Cha Gao:
Hei Zhen Zhu Cha Gao
Hei Zhen Zhu means Black Pearl. Its body is arranged in regular honeycomb shape, and each honeycomb is extremely smooth and highly reflective. Under the light, each honeycomb reflects a bright spot, just like the pearls inlaid in order.
Yu Long Sheng Xue Cha Gao
Yu Long Sheng Xue means “Jade dragon surpasses snow”. The name originates from the Yu Long Snow Mountain in Yunnan and the Cha Gao looks like it’s covered with white frost.
Hong Yun Dang Tou Cha Gao
Hong Yun Dang Tou means Lucky Strike. Its weight is very light and can suspend on the water surface. It is different from other Cha Gao in brewing. For brewing other Cha Gao, put the Cha Gao first, then water, but brewing this kind of Cha Gao, pour water first, then Cha Gao, so that the Cha Gao floats on the water. The red color of it will be diffuse from top to bottom, which is very ornamental.
Yi Wu Chun Xiao Cha Gao
The representative product of green Cha Gao is Yi Wu Chun Xiao. Yi Wu is a village in Yunnan Province. The tea leaves are from this place. Chun Xiao means spring tea. The surface of this product is dark green, but after brewing, the color of its tea soup is yellow with green, with a strong sense of smoothness and no bitter taste.
3. Health benefits of Cha Gao
Cha Gao is a highly concentrated essence of Pu-erh tea. Zhao Xuemin, a pharmacist in the Qing Dynasty, recorded the efficacy of Pu-erh Cha Gao in his medical book <A Supplement to Compendium of Materia Medica>. He said that Cha Gao can cure many kinds of diseases, such as bloating, cold, sore throat and so on.
Through the modern medical examination, the content of tea polyphenols in 1g of Cha Gao is 60%, catechins 16%, free amino acids 14%, caffeine 9%, and other substances, such as beneficial enzymes, tea polysaccharide, theaflavin, etc.
Tea polyphenols are one of the main ingredients that form the color and taste of tea, and also one of the main ingredients in tea that have health functions, which has the functions of anti-oxidation, anti-radiation, anti-aging, reducing blood lipid and blood sugar and so on.
Catechin has many pharmacological effects, such as anti-tumor, anti-oxidation, anti-bacteria and protecting heart and brain organs.
Theanine is the most important free amino acid in tea, which can provide immune function and regulate metabolism.
Caffeine is an alkaloid, which can eliminate fatigue and excite nerves.
In addition, Cha Gao has the functions of nourishing stomach and helping digestion.