Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tea Tasting Saturday #12 - Gunpowder

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

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


  1. You are too funny - thanks for my morning giggle. The Gunpowder tea looks and sounds interesting. When you mentioned Lapsang Souchong I thought - oh, oh, I don't want any road tar - and detest is not too strong a word for me. However, I think you're right about the difference proper preparation makes. I'll need to go back and try some teas again.

    Thanks for another great review.

  2. Oh Angela, this post today just makes me giggle! Your witty humor is so fun, makes me want to try this tea again, hence with your instructions. Have a great day!

  3. Well! What an opening! Happy Birthdays are in order to your spouse and friend!

    Regarding the bare arms...if Davy Crockett were here, I guess he would be grinning those bears down just reading this stuff!

    Anyway, I can hardly wait to see what you do with the first of the Japanese teas next week.

    Something funny I read today as an opinion was talking about sending tea bags to the White House on April 1st. Now that's April Fool's Day. I think the group is the New American Tea Party.

    Is there something really special about tea that we are all missing? Or is it just me? It seems that suddenly everything is coming up tea! (And I thought you loved roses!)

    Today, I do believe I will follow your notes and make a small pot of pure gunpowder tea, rather than blend it. I don't have the book, so I will just follow your thoughts on how it works best.

  4. Hello Angela: I see in the earlier post "Send a Tea Bag to D-C on April Fool's Day."

    Everytime I read about the "April Fool's Tea," I think about mentioning it to you (as a possible news story? hmmmnnnn....)

    Love your posts and I hope your husband and friends have a Wonderful Birthday.

    Sure is a pretty time of year:


  5. ha ha Very clever Angela! This would be a great tea to drink on Guy Fawkes Day (Nov 5) i.e., The Gunpowder Plot. By the way, you can add my son's 30th birthday today and my English brother-in-law's 51st birthday today! March 21 was a great day!

  6. Giggling here - and thank you for the wishes!

  7. PS - I should say thank you to ALL the kind commenters!

  8. Angela,

    I put the microwave timer on four minutes, and wouldn't you know it? I did the timer wrong and ended up with three minutes instead. So I poured that cupa and left the tea in for one minute more and poured that cup. (Both were from my automatic electric water kettle)...

    Well, the colors were right on mark, even though I screwed up. So I had some more water and added that. It turned out okay, too.

    Now another weird thing I did was to leave the lid off the pot for a while so I could see if there was any "agony of the leaves" (I read about that tea term
    somewhere)...but I could not see them agonizing. However, they did stretch out okay.

    Now I was really concerned about the water you were using. I was using my standard issue tap water.

    Earlier on MSNBC I saw where natural gas had been leaking into the tap water lines, and when fire came near it, the water ignited. I did not catch just what part of the country that was, but I was sure hoping it wasn't I added my tap water with a giggle and a bit of trepidation!

    Now I did not strain it, but I did notice right there in the bottom of the cups really tiny bits of tea (I mean powder sized specks)that really did look like gunpowder. It would have taken a really fine sieve and not a strainer to catch those!

  9. Where can you find this tea in Atlanta?



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