Legend has it that the name Gunpowder was given by a young English clerk who thought the tiny rolled green balls looked like gunpowder. The tealeaves are specially selected for quality, size and style. They are then rolled into tight nuggets. Gunpowder tea keeps a lot longer than other green teas and is favored because of this characteristic.
Gunpowder tea comes from the province of Zhejiang in China and from Taiwan. Generally the better gunpowders come from Taiwan, where the tea growing and production is concentrated around the northern part of the island near Chi-lung.. The first tea bushes were planted in Taiwan about 300 years ago with bushes from Fujian Province. Interestingly Taiwan’s gunpowder quality improved after 1949. Another interesting point; before the 1900’s, gunpowder tea comprised about 60% of Americas total tea imports compared to today, when it is less than 1 percent. Today in Taiwan the tea bushes flush about 5 times per year from April to December. The best leaf is picked from the end of May to mid-August.
When the tea is made the tiny pellets jingle and tinkle in the bowl or cup. Boiling water causes them to open up like flowers and sink slowly to the bottom in graceful patterns, which add a dimension of visual pleasure to tea drinking. This gunpowder produces a reasonably strong dark-green brew with a memorable fragrance, a slightly bitter but not unpleasant flavor and a long lasting finish. Gunpowder is more dense than other teas so one or two teaspoons for a teapot is all that is required.