(Zhucha, pearl tea)

Gunpowder tea is probably the best-known variety of Chinese green tea, coming mainly from the Ning Bo region. The tea comes rolled up into little balls to preserve freshness; these are said to resemble old-fashioned gunpowder pellets. This is the reason the tea is known as gunpowder green, but the name could just as easily have come from the way the pellets explode to many times their dried size in hot water. Gunpowder tea is also known as pearl tea, but the writeups in that node seem to be talking about something else entirely.

Like all unroasted green teas, gunpowder tea is mildly astringent with a grassy sort of flavour; many gunpowder teas also have a slightly peppery taste, and some are also a little smoky. Like most Chinese green teas, gunpowder tea in the cup is really more yellow than green. Chinese greens in general also taste a little different from their grass-hued Japanese counterparts, but it's hard to describe just how. Somehow they just don't taste quite as green, and they don't have that hint of sea air which is common to so much Japanese food and drink.

In this day and age most gunpowder tea is rolled by machines, but the highest grades are still rolled into tiny pellets by hand . As a rule the larger the pellets, the larger and older the leaves which went into them and the harsher (and cheaper) the tea.

To brew green tea, just a few leaves or pellets per cup are sufficient. If you can, use a tea pot; if not, just add the tea straight to the cup. By the time the tea has brewed, the leaves should have sunk to the bottom. Use water which is very hot, but not boiling - the ideal temperature is around 85°C. Do not add sugar unless you are making Moroccan-style mint tea, which is traditionally made with gunpowder tea, sugar and mint. Never add milk.

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