For more than 1 300 years tea was traded along some of the most spectacular routes in the world; from Yunnan in China all the way to Tibet and Nepal. Tea was carried by humans, horses and yaks on the ancient paths that are now called the Tea Horse Road.
It was the compressed tea that was the main commodity from China at the time. The compressed tea was easy to transport och kept well for many years and it was excellent for making the Tibetan yak butter tea. The tea was packed and protected in packages of dried leaves which allowed the tea to breathe. Its flavor was enhanced by the transport; by the moist of the rain, the fragrance of the sweat of the animals and all the external conditions it encountered along the route. And there was a tax on tea, paid in tea to the emperor. China needed warhorses for its army to protect its borders, and Tibetan horses were strong and sturdy. So tea was mainly traded for horses from Tibet, but other goods, such as salt and barley were also traded along the roads. The tea was carried from lowland to high altitudes, over the Tibetan Plateau, Lhasa, Mount Kailash and to Nepal. Some Tibetan monasteries along the road also functioned as trading posts for tea.
Today, only parts of the ancient trading roads are still used in the traditional way, with caravans of men and animals. It is easy to understand how precious a cup of tea must have been when one consider the hard toil by those who made tea accessible in the remote areas by their sweat, endurance, tired backs and sore feet after endless days on the road.