Gunpowder is one of the world’s most familiar and oldest green teas, dating back to the Tang Dynasty in 618 – 907. There are several theories on how this tea got its name, and all have some connection to the gunpowder used in the guns of the time. Maybe it was so named because it looked like the gunpowder of the times, or maybe because the small rolled leaf explodes into a bigger leaf once it’s brewed, or maybe it is from the Mandarin phrase “gāng pào de,” which means “freshly brewed.” Either way, it’s a great name!
For this tea, the fresh tea leaves are withered, steamed, rolled, and dried. Don’t mistake Gunpowder for an oolong tea, though. While both are rolled leaves and great for multiple infusions, Gunpowder is usually rolled into smaller pellets than oolong. You can tell a fresh Gunpowder from a stale one by the checking for shininess: the fresher the tea the shinier the leaf. Also, smaller Gunpowder pellets usually indicate a higher grade of tea.
Gunpowder is one of the stronger tasting green teas, with a flavor that is often described as thick, slightly smokey, and coppery. It can also be somewhat grassy, minty, or peppery. This makes it a natural match for the mint used in Moroccan teas, where it is brewed strongly with mint and sugar.
If you haven’t yet had Gunpowder, give it a try the next time you’re in the mood for a bold green tea.