Gunpowder Tea is an earthy, soothing tea that’s not afraid to show its pizzazz. Fiery yet delicate, robust yet smooth, this tea reminds one of relaxing beside a cozy fire-pit.
It’s that strong flavor, as well as the cool name, that has made Gunpowder Tea a favorite among tea aficionados throughout the world.
In this article, we’ll cover everything about Gunpowder Tea, including its many health benefits. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be ready to have a cup!
What is Gunpowder Tea?
Literally called ‘Pearl Tea’ (珠茶: Zhu Cha), Gunpowder Tea is a type of green tea that was first produced during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD). Coming from Zhejiang, China, a land heralded for great tea, Gunpowder Tea leaves are firmly rolled into leaf pellets that resemble gunpowder grains during production (hence the name).
Another reason why Gunpowder Tea is so fascinating is the way it steeps. While it steeps in boiling water, the pellets explode out into long leaves. It’s quite the scene. And, needless to say, you’ll taste the smoke with the first sip.
Today, Gunpowder Tea is cultivated across China and Taiwan. Introduced to Europe in the 16th century, Gunpowder Tea is now popular across the world.
Whether you’re in Los Angeles, London, or Tokyo, you can find Gunpowder Tea at a local tea shop. Or, you can always order it online from reputable sellers. Here are a few I recommend:
Varieties of Gunpowder Tea
There are several varieties of Gunpowder Tea. The most famous are:
- Pingshui Gunpowder Tea: Featuring large pearls, a stronger smell, and a deeper color, Pingshui Gunpowder Tea is the original Gunpowder Tea and the most common version. Also called Pinhead Gunpowder, this tea has higher levels of caffeine than other green teas. I personally enjoy Pingshui Gunpowder Tea after lunch. It helps avoid the afternoon slump!
- Formosa Gunpowder: Grown in Taiwan, Formosa Gunpowder is known for its steamed leaves, memorable fragrance, and dark green color. The tea has a distinct flavor that leaves you wanting more. So, boil some extra water in the tea kettle!
- Ceylon Gunpowder: Ceylon Gunpowder comes from Sri Lanka, but the production process is similar to Chinese varieties. The tea is usually grown at high altitudes (5,000 – 6,500 feet above sea level).
Some other types of tea are rolled ‘gunpowder’ style, such as premium Jasmine teas. This is done to help preserve freshness and enhance the flavor.
Health Benefits of Gunpowder Tea
If made from green tea leaves, which the majority are, Gunpowder Tea provides numerous health benefits. According to research published by the National Institutes of Health, green teas such as Gunpowder Tea can:
- Boost mental alertness (thanks to the ~40mg of caffeine per serving)
- Relieve digestive symptoms
- Promote weight loss
Additionally, Gunpowder Tea may improve cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure and improving cholesterol. There is research from the International Journal of Cardiology showing a link between green tea consumption and lower risk of stroke and heart disease.
Furthermore, Gunpowder Tea is rich in polyphenols. These micronutrients have powerful antioxidant properties and protect against free radicals. Not only could polyphenols help lower the risk of cancer, but they can also help fight symptoms of aging.
Given that caffeine levels aren’t as high as coffee, and the tea leaves offer many health benefits, Gunpowder Tea can be an alternative to coffee. For me, I prefer both coffee and tea. I like a strong cup of coffee for a jolt in the morning. After lunch, I choose tea to propel me through the rest of the day. It has just the right amount of caffeine and lots of nutrients, ensuring I can maintain my energy and mental clarity.
How to Make Gunpowder Tea
First, gather the ingredients and equipment. You’ll need:
- A teapot or a tea kettle
- Gunpowder Tea leaves
- Teacups or tea mugs
Note: You can buy loose-leaf Gunpowder Tea and use a tea strainer, such as this one from LiveFresh. This way, your leaves are in the cup when you’re drinking. Or, you could buy Gunpowder Tea that’s packaged in tea bags, like what Davidson’s Tea offers.
You make Gunpowder Tea like you would any other tea. Follow this process:
- Bring water to a boil in your tea kettle or pot.
- Add 1-2 teaspoons of Gunpowder Tea pellets per serving. For instance, if your teapot has 24 ounces of water, add 3-6 teaspoons of tea leaves.
- Allow the tea leaves to steep for a few minutes.
- Pour the tea into a cup, being sure to strain the tea leaves.
If you have tea bags, then pour the boiling water into the cup with the tea bag. Let the Gunpowder Tea steep for a few minutes. Then, remove the bag and drink.
That’s about all it takes. If you want an even more authentic experience, use a gaiwan tea set. A gaiwan is a traditional Chinese teacup. It’s essentially a lidded ceramic bowl and its use dates back to the Ming Dynasty.
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Making Moroccan Mint Tea
Gunpowder Tea is also used to make Moroccan Mint Tea. To make a batch of Mint Tea, mix the following:
- 1 tablespoon of Gunpowder Tea
- About 1 ounce of fresh mint
- 5 cups boiling water
- 3-4 tablespoons of sugar
Cold-Brewing Moroccan Mint Tea
You can also cold-brew Gunpowder Tea. Use roughly 5-7 tablespoons of tea per liter of cold water. Add in a few ice cubes if you wish and let the tea steep in the cool water in the fridge for 8-12 hours or overnight. It will be ready to drink by the next morning!
Cheers to This Cup of Gunpowder Tea!
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Gunpowder Tea. And we hope you’re ready to have a cup soon!
If you’d like to learn more about food and drinks from around the world, check out our Foodie Travel section. We have articles about Ceviche, Tequila, the best spicy dishes, and more.
In the meantime, sit down with a cup of Gunpowder Tea and enjoy the day.
About the Author
Nick Callos has always had a passion for reading, writing, and discovering the new and unknown. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Nick holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Boston College. He currently splits his time between his hometown, Chengdu, China, and the open road. A full-time travel writer, Nick hopes his work can inspire others to explore the world more deeply and enjoy the digital nomad lifestyle.
Featured image via Unsplash.