So, this week's tea has the curious name "Gunpowder." Interesting. Now may I share the funniest headline I've read in ages? You know, I'm sure, how there's been all this hullabaloo in the press about our first lady's propensity to wear sleeveless dresses. I'll be the first to admit I'd love to have arms as fit as hers, and I personally think the fashion naysayers are just jealous. But one article I read was titled "Michelle Obama's Right to Bare Arms." Bare arms. Get it? On "Gunpowder" day? Oh, never mind. Just enjoy the weekend, everyone, especially those celebrating birthdays today, like my sweet husband Alex, my dear friend Nikki, and my tea blogger friend Steph!
Name of tea: Gunpowder
Category: Chinese Green Tea
Purveyor: Harney & Sons
When purchased: January 2009
Dry leaf appearance: Very tightly curled, wiry little tea leaves of a deep, dark green color. Can't help thinking of them as "pellets," because I've read for years that Gunpowder tea is so named because it resembles old-fashioned gunpowder pellets.
Wet leaf appearance: Eventually I am going to tire of writing "looks like chopped spinach," but this is another tea where the tea leaves have a bit of a choppy appearance - although I will say that this time I actually thought "chopped collard greens."
Steeping temperature and time: 1 teaspoon of tea, 175 degrees, 3-4 minutes.
Scent: This tea had an interesting combination of what I'd call "roasted" and "smoky," and I actually thought of barbecues and grilling when I was trying to discern the fragrance! There was a faint reminiscence of Lapsang Souchong (which I absolutely detest -- that one's gonna be a problem for me when it rolls around for tea tasting), but faint enough that I could ignore it and move on.
Color: Dark, rich gold, the color of honey
Flavor: Whew! This was strong and more than a little bitter, so I knew immediately I had probably steeped it for too long at the full four minutes. The water in the kettle had cooled a bit, but I went ahead and used it to re-steep the leaves for three minutes. Ahhhh! Now this was more like it! A rich, full Chinese green, no bitterness, only a little astringency. Can't help wondering how many teas I've "disliked" and given up on when, really, I just needed to adjust the time and temp. (The second steeping was a much lighter gold, too, so I will try to remember this when I make this tea again.)
Additional notes: There is so much good info on Gunpowder tea in the Michael Harney book, I definitely recommend reading the whole passage. This time my favorite bit was learning that in processing Gunpowder tea, "the oven is designed like a Laundromat dryer, tumbling the leaves over and over in a hot metal cylinder."
Next week's tea: Matsuda's Sencha, first of the Japanese green teas