Gunpowder tea is one of the first teas new tea drinkers try. It's widely available, and often used as a base in many tea blends. However, this same tea may also be a reason many new tea drinkers decide drinking pure green tea is just not worth the effort – it's too bitter and not pleasant enough to be enjoyed pure.
But there's a catch (as there always is with tea).
Gunpowder tea is not supposed to be gentle or delicate or have delicate fresh or steamed veggies notes.
It's supposed to be strong and bold.
And that's exactly what makes it a perfect choice for making some truly unique drinks.
Why gunpowder tea is so common?
Gunpowder tea is still one of the most common tea in western countries. Many green tea blends contain either gunpowder, chun mei or sencha tea. However, gunpowder is not as common in its country of origin — China. Since the historic times, most tea came from China. Each country where tea spread developed their own tea drinking rituals and habits. Gunpowder was one of those teas that reached many countries a long time ago, and it stayed. At the same time, other green teas were not as common in the west and they started gaining in popularity only a couple of decades ago. But gunpowder green tea is different. Its robust character made it perfect for customisation and preparing using different brewing techniques.
Why is gunpowder tea called gunpowder?
Tea names, especially of Chinese teas, are often unique and very interesting. Gunpowder is one of those teas, too. If you are new to tea, rest assured, there is absolutely no gunpowder in gunpowder tea. The name comes from the shape of the leaf. Gunpowder green tea leaves are rolled into tight little pellets and have a green/grey colour. Some types may have bigger loosely shaped leaves and other will be small and compact.
Other name for gunpowder is zhucha or pearl tea. This is not to be confused with Dragon Pearl tea, which is a completely different type of tea. This tea is often available under two other names – Pinhead gunpowder tea and temple of heaven green tea.
What does gunpowder tea taste like?
Gunpowder is much stronger than many other Chinese green teas. Even though it's one of the most widely available green teas, its flavour is an exception, rather than a rule among Chinese green teas. It's strong, dark green-yellow, smooth and full-bodied, with a smoky and sometimes bitter note. Gunpowder tea brewing is not always easy, especially if you want to avoid bitterness. Bitterness is usually more pronounced when the tea is steeped too long. While bitterness and strength may not be as inviting if you want to enjoy your tea pure, this flavour profile is actually great for making many drinks.
5 ways to use gunpowder tea
Some of the most popular ways of enjoying gunpowder tea have a long history and cultural importance. One of them is Moroccan mint tea, a very delicious, sweet green tea with mint.
1. Use it for making Moroccan mint tea
Moroccan mint tea of Maghrebi Mint tea is a type of strong and sweet drink made with gunpowder tea and nana mint (spearmint). Moroccan mint tea is more than just a cup of green tea with mint. It's made using a special tea pot, simmer instead of brewed, and includes several steps to make it properly. It's served from smaller glass cups, and it's both sweet and strong.
Moroccan mint tea tastes great, both hot and cold, although it's traditionally served hot. It's common in many countries, and while the authentic mint tea is made from a scratch, there are many pre-made blends that taste great too.
2. Use it for making pink tea
Pink tea or Kashmiri chai is a truly beautiful type of milk tea with a beautiful pink colour. Although the colour is pink, it's actually made from green tea. Gunpowder is a brilliant choice for making this tea – it goes really well with milk and has a deep and complex flavour that can be enriched with spices. Pink chai is made by simmering green tea leaves in a saucepan, then adding a pinch of bicarbonate of soda. This will change the colour to deep red, and then adding milk will turn it into pink.
Check out the easiest way to make iced pink tea.
3. Make iced tea or sweet tea
Gunpowder is one of the best teas for making a proper iced tea or sweet tea. Because of its strength, it can handle a lot of ice. It also blends really well with many ingredients, especially citruses and other fruits and herbs. When making an iced tea, add double the amount of tea leaves and steep for 5-10 minutes.
4. Make a green chai
Gunpowder is one of the rare green teas that go exceptionally well with milk and it's just perfect for making a green chai or green masala chai. You can use it instead of black tea and follow exactly the same steps and till get a super delicious green masala chai. Try doing the same using sencha and you may be disappointed – most of the times it's too grassy to be blended with milk. Green chai is similar to pink chai except there's no bicarbonate of soda to change the colour. To make a green masala chai, add your favourite spices, such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and ginger.
5. Cold brew it with fresh herbs
Cold brewing is another thing that you need to try with gunpowder tea. This brewing method changes the flavour profile of green tea, making it less bitter and more refreshing. If you're not really into sweet or milky drinks, then this is the perfect way to use gunpowder tea. Try adding some fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary or basil too. You'll get a super refreshing, light and aromatic tea that you can sip all day long.