Traditionally, as many other food stuff, tea was manually wrapped in a piece of paper. Folded by skillful hands of professionals, a thin piece of paper was turned into a well-secured package that could endure a lot of transportation and handling. The traditional way of packing tea was slightly more complicated than packaging for other food products, because tea is a more delicate product.
In traditional society, only upscale teas were packed in small portions. A typical portion was 4 liang, approximately 150 grams. The little 150g paper pack was where the name Baozhong is from. When the tea Baozhong was first in market, it used the paper wrapping which was then very popular in Fujian for upscale teas. Baozhong in Chinese means "wrapped product".
I always have sentimental feelings towards the traditional paper packs, in which I got snacks, candies, books and teas, without fancy paintings, without shiny plastic or metal. The paper was the most plain and simple kind, but the salesmen would make each pack in the most perfect shape and exactly the same size, all in seconds. It's a art that's not seen anymore.
Once I got this wonderful tea gift from Tead Off, who got it from a hundred-year-old tea shop in Bangkok. The tea, Qian Li Xiang (or Thousand Mile Aroma) is fantastic and is very hard to find even in Fujian, its production region. The tea came in a very neat, traditional paper pack! I spent a long time admiring the paper pack before I finally opened it. The little paper pack touched my heart deeply and brought me the warm memories of old days.
It also amazes me to think that people have never stopped packing tea in this way in a hundred-year-old teashop in Bangkok, while this tradition has almost died in Wuyi, where all the oolongs were originally from.
Today, many people buy tea from thousand miles away instead of in the teashop at street corner. Paper packs are replaced by vacuumed cans, mylar bags or other modern style packs. I don't know why I was interested to learn how the traditional paper packs were made. Not that there is any use of it. To me, it's just interesting to know.
After talking with a few tea friends, I've learned that to make a traditional tea pack, two wood boxes are needed, one should fit right inside the other. I happened to have this set of four wood boxes which were common in American society in the old days. They can do a good enough job.
First, paper is wrapped around the smaller box.
Then, the paper wrapped small box is set into the larger box.
Next, the small box is carefully removed from the paper wrap.
After the small box is removed, the paper wrap is filled with tea. To avoid any wasting in my clumsy action, I used rice instead.
After the paper wrap is filled to the top, the paper is folded on the top.
The lid of the wood box is used to press on the paper pack to make sure it's fully packed but not packed over the top.
At the end, the paper pack is made and it's carefully taken out of the wooden box.
It took me more than half an hour to make this poor pack. But in hands of professionals, it would just seconds!