Gunpowder green tea, also called pearl tea, is so called because of its distinctive shape. As the tea is dried, it is steamed, and then rolled into small balls resembling grains of gunpowder. Although it has now been replaced by machines, this rolling was originally done by hand. Rolling the tea can protect the flavor for decades. Having said that, there are still people and companies that are rolling it by hand for those who seek out that extra authenticity from their tea experience.
Where does gunpowder green tea come from?
Gunpowder tea is native to Zhejiang in China, where it was produced as early as the Tang Dynasty. It found its way to Taiwan in the 1800s. It was one of the first teas to become popular in America, although it has lost some of its popularity in recent years. It is often served at Chinese restaurants.
The size of the pellet determines the quality of the tea. Smaller pellets indicate a more tightly rolled tea. Since rolling preserves the flavor, the tea with the tightest roll is the highest quality tea. The pellets should also have a bit of a shine to them, as this indicates freshness.
Gunpowder tea is brewed in almost the same fashion as any loose-leaf tea, but it does tend to be thicker once it is brewed. While you can, of course, tailor to your individual tastes, generally 1 teaspoon of gunpowder tea is enough for a cup. Once brewed, gunpowder tea is golden yellow in color. The flavor varies greatly depending on the type of tea. Some describe the taste as coppery, or smoky, woody, or even a bit fruity and sweet. Each type has its own flavor, which makes this an exciting and unique tea. When brewed, the pellets open up, releasing their unique flavor.
There are three main types of gunpowder tea, as categorized by where they are grown. First Pingshui Gunpowder is very aromatic, but the pellets are bigger than other varieties. It is usually called Temple of Heaven Gunpowder tea, or Pinhead Gunpowder. Second is Formosa Gunpowder, a tea grown in Taiwan. It has a different smell than the traditional Chinese gunpowder. Ceylon Gunpowder is grown in Sri Lanka at very high altitudes, and also has a unique flavor, making it a unique choice when brewing iced green tea.
Different flavors of gunpowder green tea
It is rather common to find flavored gunpowder tea. Flavors include coconut, cherry, red hot, and many more. One popular variety is a mint flavored tea known as the “Moroccan Mint” tea, which is still used in the famous Moroccan tea ritual. In Morocco, it is the custom to serve Maghrebi tea (mint flavored gunpowder tea) to all guests. Maghrebi tea is brewed a little differently from normal tea, often mixed with other herbs or even pine nuts to give it a distinctive flavor. It is also poured from up high, so that the cup of tea has foam on the top. Generally, tea is served three times, and it is considered an insult to refuse the tea.
Gunpowder tea has a high caffeine content, even more so than other green teas. It also contains theophylline and theobromine, which are similar to caffeine both in chemical makeup and effect. It can actually be used to extend athletic performance, as it sharpens the mind and increases alertness. It also has the same wide ranging health benefits as green teas – possessing the capability to aid in everything from weight loss to building your immune system. Some also use it as a supplement to treat diabetes, as well as to prevent cavities and tooth decay.
Gunpowder tea is an interesting and diverse tea that you are sure to enjoy. It’s rich flavor will be a welcome addition to your teas!