Gunpowder Tea (Pearl Tea)

Despite its explosive-sounding name, gunpowder tea is not actually made of gunpowder! The tea is so named because its rolled, pellet-like appearance is similar to gunpowder. It is one of the best known varieties of Chinese green tea. Gunpowder tea is rolled to preserve the freshness of the leaves.

Gunpowder tea may also be referred to as pearl tea.

Properties of gunpowder tea

Gunpowder tea is a green tea with a thick, strong taste that has been described as being like soft honey. There is usually a smoke-like flavor to the tea and a slight copper aftertaste. Most forms of gunpowder tea have a taste reminiscent of grass, although some forms may have a minty or pepper-like taste.

When brewed, gunpowder tea has a yellow appearance.

Origin and production of gunpowder tea

Gunpowder tea originates from China, mostly Pingshui in the Zheijing Province.

To create its distinctive appearance, the leaves are withered, then steamed and rolled into small pellets. The pellets are rolled tightly but carefully, to prevent breaking the veins in the leaves. The pellets are then dried.

Most gunpowder tea pellets are now rolled by machine, but the highest grades are still hand-rolled. A good general rule is - the larger the pellets, the lower the quality of the tea. High-grade gunpowder tea will feature very small, tightly-rolled pellets.

Preparation of gunpowder tea

Ideally, gunpowder tea should be drunk from glass or porcelain tea-ware. Both the tea cup and the teapot should be rinsed with hot water beforehand. As gunpowder tea pellets will expand when in contact with water, care should be taken with the number of pellets used. Normally, one to two teaspoons of gunpowder tea should be used per 150ml of hot water.

The best water temperature to use is between 70°c (158°F) to 80°c (176°F). For the first and second brewing, the leaves should be steeped for one minute. The time should be gradually extended with subsequent brewing.

Gunpowder tea can be drunk straight from the tea leaves. Milk should not be added to gunpowder tea. There are, however, other ways of drinking the tea as well.

Moroccan mint tea is a variant of gunpowder tea, and is made from a mixture of gunpowder tea, sugar and mint. The sugar and mint are added after brewing to create a refreshing, light taste.

Gunpowder tea is recommended as a compliment to strong-tasting food.

Health benefits of gunpowder tea

Gunpowder tea has mild astringent qualities - that is, it is able to draw together or constrict tissues. This makes Gunpowder Tea useful for ailments such as digestive problems and indigestion.