The Ancient Tea Horse Road: Official 8 Episodes Video Documentary

Watch all the episodes of this historic documentary on the tea horse road by CCTV/CNTV. All episodes are in Chinese, supplemented with English subtitles.

The Ancient Tea Horse Road – Part 1

Resembling the famous Silk Road, the Ancient Tea Road located in southwestern China was an important gateway for transportation and communication between ancient China and West Asia. It was a giant platform for the political, economic, social and cultural intersection of different ethnic groups and a gigantic lifeline stretching on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Cultural Exchange Along Ancient Tea Horse Route – Part 2

Tea and tea culture were first exported from China to the West. For centuries, caravans carried tea from one destination to anther, from one country to another, even to the other side of the earth. It became a never-ending link connecting different ethnic groups and continents.

The Traces of the Southern Silk Road – Part 3

Searching for traces of the caravans of the ancient road is like salvaging a sunken boat in the ocean. This missing tribe has been hiding in the mountains, valleys and forests of the vast southwest. Only the scattered folktales can we faintly see their figures.

The Stories of the Ancient Tea Trail – Part 4

For the caravans of the past, the ancient road was largely a test of life and will. Many of the spectacles were life or death moments. And there were so many such moments in their lives. There were endless roads and nonstop wind.

The Ancient Tea Horse Caravan Path – Part 5

The ancient road is motionless in the paintings, but the road that carries time, culture, caravans, and business travellers is a record, the hooves are the needles, allowing the road to sing its songs on the horseback.

The Ancient Tea Horse Trail: Yanjing – Part 6

Yanjing Village is properly described as a throat. It’s not only the gate to Tibet, but also a spiritual home for many ethnic groups and cultures. In the 19th century, the foreign missionaries entered Tibet from India via the ancient road, and then made their way to Yanjing, bringing the Western religion to the local Tibetans and Naxi people.

The Ancient Tea Caravan Road: Road To Fortune – Part 7

The most important function of the ancient road is trade and circulation. As small as households, and as large as trans-provincial and transnational business families, their success depended primarily on this road. For many people, the ancient road is the road of fortune and prosperity.

The Ancient Tea Road: The Midsection – Part 8

The midsection of the ancient road is the converging point of Yunnan-Tibet and Sichuan-Tibet Ancient Tea-Horse roads. The majority of the residents here are Tibetans, and most of the famous horse drivers are from this area. A song of the town names of the ancient roads is still popular.

How Feng Shui, Money Frogs & The Tea Drinking Environment Are Related

If you’ve ever seen a traditional Chinese tea ceremony setting, you probably noticed these little money frogs on the tea table. These money frogs are known as ‘tea pets’. Besides these money frogs, tea pets are also available in other forms such as buddhas/monks and mythical creatures. These tea pets in fact are great to own for some additional ‘luck’ and improve the ‘feng shui’ of a tea drinking environment. Learn more in this article!

What is Feng Shui?

Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese philosophical system as well as a geomantic practice. It has a close link to Taoism. The term “Feng Shui” literally translates as “wind-water” in English. It focuses on harmonising everyone with the surrounding environment by positioning objects within a building or an area in a way that everything agrees with spiritual forces.

Feng Shui and Tea

Feng Shui practice discusses the spiritual forces that bind the universe, earth, and human together. It has a metaphorical connection with the tea, as tea is believed as the essence of the universe, earth, and human. We can also find this connection in Gaiwan teaware: the lid as the universe, the saucer as earth, and the bowl as the human being.

Tea Pets

Tea pets are small figures of animals, plants and folklore characters, usually made of Zisha (Yixing clay) – same material as Yixing teapots. It is common for tea lovers to own tea pets for good luck.

To “raise” a tea pet means to pour leftover tea over it to “nourish” it. Over time, the tea pet absorbs the tea and becomes glossier and more lifelike, along with the aroma of the tea.

Feng Shui and Tea Pets

The basic Feng Shui rules for all the tea pets are simple: tea pets should be at the upper left corner of the tea table, or at the front row of the tea tray.

There are however specific rules regarding different figures of tea pets. Let’s take a look at the rules for some popular tea pets in China.

1. Money frog

In Chinese legend, Money frog turned from evil to good and helped out the poor people everywhere by spitting out money. It represents good fortune and wealth. It has a peculiar look – two legs at front, only one leg at the back that looks like a tail, strings of coins carried on its back, one coin held in its mouth.

If you got one Money frog tea pet with a coin held in the mouth, the good Feng Shui rule to follow is to face it to yourself. Never face it to the door, because it means to turn the good fortune away. If the Money frog didn’t have a coin in the mouth, which is rare, then you should face it to the door, that means it would draw the wealth to you.

2. Pixiu

A Pixiu is a Chinese mythical animal that looks like a fierce lion with wings. Its figure is widely used in Feng Shui practice. It is believed that a Pixiu can stabilise houses and avoid evil spirits. It eats only gold, silver and jewels and never deficates, so it draws wealth from all directions to the house, and the wealth stays and accumulates. Because of this, Pixiu has been traditionally considered an auspicious protector that brings good luck and wealth.

Feng Shui tips for Pixiu tea pet:

  • Face it to the front door and make sure that nothing is too close to block its view; otherwise it can’t see evil sprits and good fortune.
  • Pixiu loves to be clean, make sure there’s no dirt or leftover tea leaves on it.

 3. The Laughing Buddha

In Chinese culture, The Laughing Buddha represents both contentment and abundance. His figure usually is a stout, laughing bald man with an exposed big belly. People believe that rubbing his belly brings wealth, good luck, and prosperity.

Feng Shui tips for a Laughing Buddha tea pet: Because a Laughing Buddha’s smile shows his hospitality to every guest, as a tea pet figure, it should be facing the front door, welcoming every guest and the good luck to come.

Tea Related Names for Cats, Dogs & Other Pets

You might wonder how we came up with such a weird topic. The truth is, we didn’t come up with this idea at all. See for example this Reddit post or this Yahoo Answers page, and you can see that tea names for cats and dogs are pretty populair.

tea names for cats kittens

If you are a tea lover and happens to have a pet, it is just natural to give your pet a tea related name. We have gathered people’s opinions on this topic from different forums, sites and added our own ideas. We hope you enjoy this fun list and find a suitable tea name for your pet!

  • Purr’Er: this one is simply our favorite. The cat owner certainly showed his/her love of Pu’er!
  • Earl Grey: male, grey color, of course.
  • Lady Grey: female, grey color, of course.
  • Pekoe: great name for orange cats!
  • Meowfeng: a lovely wordplay, would be a cute name for a kitten.
  • Da hong paw: it is the perfect name for a red-hair cat or dog.
  • Matcha: a fun word to pronounce over and over.
  • Yixing: it sounds cute, and it’s at the perfect level of obscurity. Meaning that non-tea people won’t get it, but common enough that all tea people will get it.
  • Camillia/Camellia: an elegant name for female pets.
  • Ya Shi/Duck Shit: someone suggested, “Ya Shi when they are being good, but when they scratch your furniture, it’s Duck Shit all the way.”
  • Chai: it is one of the most popular tea related pet names. This spiced tea drink is perfect for the pets who seems to have a bit of extra “zing” to them.
  • Iron goddess: sounds like a proud pet!
  • Keemun: A black tea name for black cats and dogs!
  • Yunnan tea regions for pu erh lovers: Yiwu. Menghai. Bulang. Jinggu. Nannuo. Naka. Bingdao. Xikong. Bangdong. Fengqing. All the names are Pu’er mountains and regions in Yunnan, China.
  • Great pet names if you’re a herbal tea lover: Chamomile, Yerba, Tisane.
  • Love a certain brand? Perhaps use them as a name: Twinings, Lipton etc.

tea related name for dogs

If you are looking for a distinct name for your pet, hope this list has given you some inspiration!

Tea During The Tang Dynasty

In the early days, tea used to be consumed as a medicinal beverage. Tribes in the North Western regions of China boiled the tea until all the all flavour and nutritions were extracted. The resulting tea was bitter, and definitely not for pleasure. Instead, tea was seen as a practical drink that prevents one from different ailments and keeps one warm.

But tea became more than just that during the Tang Dynasty. Cultivation, production and trade flourished. As a result, tea-drinking surged in popularity. You couldn’t go anywhere in the capital of Chang’an without seeing tea: at the imperial court, in the monasteries, on the street… Everyone drinks tea: monks, poets and even the common people.

Why Tea Became Popular During The Tang?

There are several factors that allowed tea to go mass market. First of all the Tang dynasty was a relatively peaceful period. Emperors such as Taizong and Gaozong not only practiced the ‘Art of War’ but had plenty of time to practice the ‘Art of Tea’.

But it wasn’t only the emperors who loved tea. With the backing of the Monks and famous poets such as Lu Yu, it was just a matter of time for common people to start appreciating tea.

Tea and Chan Buddhism (Zen Buddhism)

Chan Buddhism flourished in Tang Dynasty. It requires days of meditation practice. The monks found tea very refreshing and useful. It helped them stay awake and get rid of distracting thoughts. Tea became their favourite drink. Most of the Chan Buddhist temples located in the mountains. These mountains had the right soil and temperature for growing tea. The monks started to grow and produce their own tea. They planted more and more tea trees around temples. They were among the earliest big scale tea growers in China. The monks set the tea-drinking trend. They also discovered new growing and roasting method that improved the taste of tea.

Lu Yu and The Classic of Tea

During the heyday of Tang Dynasty, Lu Yu grew up in a temple with a tea-loving adopter. He learned to cook and wrote the famous book on tea-The Classic of Tea (Cha Jing).

The book showed the whole tea-drinking procedure and methods. It also listed 28 tea utensils and 8 growing regions of tea at its time. It marked the birth of Chinese tea ceremony and set a model for the development of tea culture in later ages. With his contribution, Lu Yu deserved the name “Tea Saint”.

Also read the Full History of Tea in this article: History of Tea in China & How It Spread Across the World.

Tea Trade During The Tang Dynasty

Early in Tang Dynasty, Princess Wencheng got married to Tibetan King Songtsän Gampo and introduced tea to Tibet.

princess wen cheng tibet tang

The Tibetan people had a diet based on meat and dairy, tea was the best drink for the vitamins they lacked. Soon tea was high in demand. But high altitude and tough climate there made it hard for tea to grow. However, there were plenty of good Tibetan horses that inland market needed for the expanding army.

tea horse road map

With the surging tea production and the market for horses, inland tea merchants started to transport tea through some tough routes to Tibet, and exchanged it for Tibetan ponies back. This was called “tea-for-horse” trade, a big part of the Tea Horse Road history.

The Word ‘Tea’ During The Tang

Before Tang tea was called “tu” (荼). It means tea as well as bitter vegetable and one kind of weeds. As tea gained more and more popularity, people found the need to give tea a specific name. They took out one stroke of the character “tu”, and called it “cha”(茶). This character meant “tea” only. Lu Yu used “cha” in his The Classic of Tea (Cha Jing). Famous tea enthusiast and poet Lu Tong also used “cha” in many of his poems. Since then, “cha” was tea, and it lasted until today.

Teaware During Tang Dynasty

Teaware became a big part of tea culture during Tang. The ceramics industry’s rapid development resulting in teaware to become more affordable. Common families were now able to drink tea from ceramic tea cups and store tea in ceramic jars.

At that time, the two most famous styles of teaware were Xing ware from Hebei and Yue ware from Yuezhou. The first, was known for its clean white appearance, while latter was appreciated for its polished jade look.

This Massive Pu Erh Tea Needs a Sawing Machine To Slice

In the past transporting tea from Yunnan to neighbouring regions was a difficult task. Pu erh tea used to be compressed tightly in massive sizes for easy transportation. We discovered this cylinder shaped pu erh during a tea expo, and the merchant was selling them while demonstrating how he gets a slice of it with a sawing machine!

The History Of The Word ‘Tea’

The way we call tea in different regions of the world is influenced by the different pronunciations of the word ‘tea’ in Chinese as well as the power balance of different regions throughout history.

3 Ways Of Pronouncing Tea

China has many ethnic groups and thus they have their own pronunciations of the word tea.

  • North China: ‘Cha’
  • South China: ‘Tey’ or ‘Ti’
  • Southwest China: ‘La’

6th Century: The Beginning Of Tea Exchange

Starting from the 6th Century, China started exporting tea during the Sui Dynasty. The North was the most influential region with many export activities focused on shipping tea to Japan, Turkey, Russia, Iran, Portugal and other Arabic countries. Therefore, these countries way of pronouncing tea is very similar to ‘cha’. Try to translate the word tea from English to any language from the mentioned countries, and you will find that they use ‘cha’ or variations such as ‘chai’ or ‘char’. For example:

  • Russia: char
  • Japanese: cha
  • Turkish: çay

mapping the word tea

16th & 17th Century: Tea Export To Europe

During this period, economic activity shifted from the North to the Southern part of China where tea was at that time pronounced as ‘Tey’. Main export destinations in Europe with the most demand coming from Britain, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, and Spain. These countries therefore use pronunciations close to ‘tey’ or ‘ti’.

  • France: thé
  • Holland: thee
  • Germany: tee
  • Italy: tè
  • Spain: té
  • Britain: tea

tea word map

tea word 2

What’s particularly interesting is that even though Portugal and Spain are neighboring countries with a very closely related language, they pronounce tea differently (Portugal: chá, Spain:té). This proofs the importance of dominance of tea producing regions in China over different periods of time through history.


Some European countries such as Poland are an exception. In Polish the word for tea isn’t related to either of the pronunciations mentioned above, but comes from the word ‘herb’: herbata.

Export to Countries Neighboring China

At the same time the Dai, Miao, and Yi minorities Southwestern part of China also started exporting tea to neighboring countries, such as Laos, Burma, Cambodia. As these ethnic minorities pronounce tea as ‘la’ the importing countries are using the same term in their languages.

3 Ways To Brew Loose Leaf Green Tea in a Glass

Steeping a cup of green tea can be done in many different ways. Sometimes you want to take out your full tea ceremony set and perform a ritual, while there are also moments that you just want to steep casually using a straight glass.

Traditionally, loose leaf green tea is often prepared in a glass as they benefit from lower water temperatures. The delicate leaves are also hard to over-steep and can be kept in the glass while you sip. Isolation of heat is also a less important factor compared to preparing oolong or pu erh tea. Those types of tea would be better of in an Yixing teapot.

Don’t underestimate the potential of simple straight glass though. With some simple tips and tricks you can achieve almost the same quality as traditional teaware. In the video below we show you 3 ways of brewing green tea in a glass, followed by more detailed notes to tweak the brewing process based on characteristics of the green tea leaves and environmental temperature.

Rinsing the glass

Rinsing the glass with hot water before brewing can be beneficial to steep better tea. This will warm the glass, and thus keep the water temperature more consistent when performing your first brew. If you want to keep it casual, for example because you’re in office, then you could decide to skip this step.

Also read: Why tea breaks are good for you

Glass Brewing Method 1

The first way of brewing loose green tea in a glass is by first adding hot water before the leaves. This method is the most suitable for smaller tea leaves because they easily absorb water and release flavor, even when they’re added after the water.

Due to the smaller size of the leaves, they’re often more delicate, and thus benefit from the water temperature to cool slightly. When you add hot water at 85 C / 185 F it will decrease a few degrees by the time you add the leaves in.

green tea brewing 2

Glass Brewing Method 2

In the second method for brewing loose leaf green tea, you first fill up the glass until it’s 1/3 full, followed by adding the leaves. This is great for mid-sized leaves.

green tea brewing 3.jpgGlass Brewing Method 3

In this last method, we first add the leaves followed by filling the glass with hot water. This method suits larger leaves the best, because they tend to absorb water slower then fine leaves. The brewing time would take too long when you apply the first method to brew larger leaves.

green tea brewing 4.jpg

Temperature, Duration & Amount of Leaves

For each method, you should apply a steeping duration of 3 minutes with hot water at  85 C / 185 F.

For green tea, applying a leaf-to-water ratio of 1:50 is a good starting point. This means that 4 grams of leaf is good for a 200 ml (6-7 oz) glass of tea that can be steeped for 3 times.

Subsequent Steeps

Once you’ve consumed 2/3 of the glass or whenever you feel that the taste is becoming to strong, simply refill it with hot water. A good quality green tea should get you at least 3 brews.

Seasonal Tweaks

While above we refer each way of steeping as a ‘method’ you could rather see them as variations in the way of brewing with a glass. Choosing a method to prepare loose leaf green tea based on the delicacy of the leaves is a great starting point. However, sometimes you need to consider the surrounding environment as well.

Let’s say you’re brewing a cup of tea outside during a hot summer day. Then the first method of adding hot water could already be great for tea leaves that you would normally steep with method 2. That’s because hot water tend to cool down more slowly in such condition. In contrast, you want to use method 3 (adding leaves before pouring hot water) more often when you’re in a low temperature environment. Questions? Please ask.

Tea Pics: Picking & Processing Chinese Tea

Some nice images were shared by the China Daily newspaper recently to show how Chinese tea is made. We can write a lot about the complicated process about it, but that would be boring to read. Check the impressive pics below to get an idea of journey from the leaf that ends up in your cup. These tea pics are definitely worth a thousand words.

Picking tea

picking tea leaves 2.jpg

picking tea leaves.jpg

Here’s a close up, smile!tea leaves close up

Air drying tea

air drying tea leaves.jpg

Rolling rolling green tea leaves.jpg

Pan Firing

stirring chinese green tea in pan.jpg

Removing impuritiesb083fe955b6c1872ab0a33.jpg

removing impurities.jpg

Finished dry leaves


And Finally,…the green tea leaves end in a cup



Coffee People Versus Tea People

Yes this is a generalization, but I’ve noticed some differences between the people who regularly drink coffee and those who drink tea. Have you?

They say a person is defined by their actions. Some people prefer cats over dogs, other’s love a glas of beer over wine. If you’re into either tea or coffee, then you might have noticed some differences between ‘tea people’ and ‘coffee people’!

A study published in the Journal ‘Molecular Psychiatry’ in 2015 even shows that there are certain genes that predict/affect the amount of coffee consumption.

1. Coffee people are more driven

I would generalize and say that ‘coffee people’ are typically driven folk looking for coffee’s stimulation properties while ‘tea people’ are typically reflective folk looking for tea’s relaxation properties.

There’s also proof in the UK that coffee drinkers make more money and get more pay raise. Read this article in the Daily Mail: Coffee lovers are higher paid than tea fans

Related to this I found a few quotes online:

  • Tea drinkers meditate; coffee drinkers medicate.
  • Tea drinkers keep thoughts; coffee drinkers keep notebooks.
  • Tea drinkers read; coffee drinkers write.
  • Tea drinkers take a break; coffee drinkers need a break.


2. Tea people are more health conscious

Furthermore, given coffee’s greater addictive properties and tea’s well known health benefits, ‘tea people’ perhaps have more discipline and control over their lives and are more health conscious than ‘coffee people’. A related quote:

  • Tea drinkers comfort you when you’re sick; coffee drinkers comfort you when you’re tired.

3. Tea people love wine, Coffee people love whiskey

Cheap coffee is like cheap whiskey.  If you need a jolt of caffeine to wake up or a shot of liquor to let loose, both will get the job done. That being said, high grade coffee is like good whiskey.  Both also get the job down but on a more enjoyable level.

Tea is different than coffee- it is similar to wine.  Although there are cheap teas and cheap wines, the variety and possibilities of flavor, type, color, aroma, mouthfeel, etc of Camellia sinensis are vast.  And like wine, depending on the region, climate, and multiple other factors the qualities of tea can be far more complex.

With that being said, if you look at the reason behind why coffee people drink coffee, and tea people drink tea, you might get a better understanding of the differences between the two.

4. Tea people have better breath.

This is simply drinking tea improves one’s breath, while coffee consumption contributes to bad breath.

5. Tea people care about the journey, coffee people care about the result

I think ‘tea people’ generally enjoy finer things in life, are more laid back and content and don’t necessarily feel the need to be a part of the mad rush. At the high end, the rituals are more elaborate with tea than with coffee – high end coffee drinkers have a ritual that is more technical and less “dance like”.  When I think of the Chinese tea ceremony, I don’t think there is an equivalent in the coffee world, at least that I know of.  High end coffee is all about the results, rather than the ceremony (what green beans, what roaster, particular computerized roast profile, what grinder, what grind setting, purity of the water, temperature of the water, what brewing method) – if does not matter how much grace is involved, just the technical details and the end result.  In the tea ceremony, even what you wear matters.

A few related quotes:

  • Tea drinkers do it for the enjoyment; coffee drinkers do it with a purpose.
  • Tea drinkers sip on a moment; coffee drinkers gulp it down.
  • Tea drinkers savor the day; coffee drinkers live it.
  • Tea drinkers like fine china; coffee drinkers are fine with paper.

6. Tea people are geeks

The very fact that tea generally takes more time and attention to brew, has more subtleties and nuances, has a much longer tradition, and, has less caffeine – means that you’re going to get a slightly more “geeky” person who cares more about the journey than the result.

7. Coffee people are more addicted to coffee than tea people to tea

The fact that coffee truly “jolts” you with a caffeine dose and that it’s much more addictive, leads it to be a bit more intense and obvious experience – attracting people who are more into that approach. According to the Huffington Post:

49% of coffee drinkers would rather give up their cell phone for a month than go without coffee.

Some more related quotes:

  • Tea drinkers are strict; coffee drinkers are addicts.
  • Tea drinkers don’t need caffeine; coffee drinkers would inject it, if possible.

8. There are more tea people than coffee people

Tea is the second most consumed beverage right after water. Conclusion: there are more tea people. Checkout the below infographic:

coffee person infographic