Excited to start Bonfire night off with a bang? Or perhaps you are simply wishing to explore the wonders of Gunpowder Tea, and all it has to offer? Either way, you needn’t look any further. As the name might suggest, Gunpowder Tea delivers an almost unmatched both in mouthwatering flavours and astounding health benefits.
It has been made and enjoyed for well over a thousand years, and as of the present day, continues to greatly increase in popularity. Yet a great mystery surrounds its origins; from its overall history to the very name it has long since been known by. So why, after centuries upon centuries of consumption, has Gunpowder Tea once again risen to fame? And why, despite its worldwide acclaim, is there still so little knowledge on this truly wonderful brew?
What is Gunpowder Tea?
There is no mistaking Chinese Gunpowder Tea when it comes to its unique and somewhat strange appearance prior to brewing. It is made from tea leaves and young buds, which are rolled into small, round pellets resembling the lead shots used in early muskets. In China, Gunpowder Tea is known as ‘zhū chá’, which literally means ‘pearl tea’ or ‘bead tea’. Its English name allegedly derives from an English port clerk who once described how the tea’s pre-brewed appearance quite literally looked like gunpowder.
There are, however, other, lesser-known theories associated with the tea’s name, such as it stemming from the Mandarin Chinese phrase “freshly brewed”. Spoken in its correct dialect, the phrase “freshly brewed” sounds like the English word “gunpowder”. Finally, there is the suggestion that Gunpowder Tea owes its name to the ‘crackling’ sound it makes upon brewing, similar to the ‘crack’ of a musket. Whether there is truth behind any of these tales is a subject of great debate. However, the name has been left unchanged for centuries, despite the great shroud of mystery that still, to this day, surrounds it!
Historians largely agree that Gunpowder Tea first originated from the Zhejiang province of China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE). In fact, to this day, the Zhejiang province remains one of the most important Chinese provinces for Gunpowder Tea production. Other provinces known for producing Gunpowder Tea include Guangdong, Anhui, Hunan, and Fujian.
During the time of its conception, the intricate processing method used to make Gunpowder Tea would have been traditionally conducted by hand. Nowadays, however, specially designed machines are often utilised in order to keep up with the ever-growing demand. The main exception to this rule is usually when higher grade Gunpowder Tea is created, such as The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company’s very own Gunpowder Pinhead Green Tea.
Contrary to popular belief, black tea leaves or even oolong tea leaves may be used in the Gunpowder Tea production process. Gunpowder Teas are created by first pan-firing the leaves. Following this, the leaves are then rolled into small pellets and dried. The taste of the finished tea is very much dependent on many factors, including the type of tea used, the quality of its leaf, and its province or region of origin. Yet most have a similarly grassy and/or earthy flavour, coupled with occasionally sweet undertones. Interestingly, up until 1900, Chinese Gunpowder Tea accounted for around 60% of America’s total tea imports!
What is Formosa Gunpowder Tea?
While Gunpowder Tea originated from China, its production has since become closely tied with the tea trade in Taiwan. Historically, it is estimated that Taiwan has been inhabited for at least 5,000 years. However, it was not until the 14th Century that Portuguese sailors first laid eyes on the present-day country’s enchanting landscape, thus dubbing it “Formosa”, meaning “beautiful island”.
Located just over 100 miles from the Southeastern coast of mainland China and 370 miles from Japan’s Okinawa, Gunpowder Tea was first introduced to Taiwan in the mid-19th Century while the island was under the rule of the Chinese Qing Dynasty (1644-1912 CE). This was due to a British tea merchant and entrepreneur by the name of John Dodd (1839-1907), who in the 1860’s, helped instigate the transport of tea bushes from the Chinese Fujian Province.
Following this, Dodd, with the assistance of a Fujian merchant called Li Chunsheng, together managed to persuade local farmers to increase cultivation of tea by providing much-needed financial support. Soon after, plantations and factories started appearing in and around the Formosa capital of Taipei. Oolong was an especially popular tea produced in Formosa at the time, soon followed by now-world-renowned Gunpowder Tea.
The tea movement in Formosa during the late 1800’s also coincided with mass-immigration from China’s eastern provinces. These immigrants came equipped with centuries of tea-producing skills passed down through generations. Following the Qing dynasty’s defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), Taiwan was formally ceded in full sovereignty to the Empire of Japan.
Under imperialist Japanese rule, further industrialisation of Taiwan saw many family tea gardens converted into mechanised factory farms. The Japanese also introduced Tea Institutes and even offered training to aspiring tea masters, as well as endorsing further black tea production. Gunpowder Tea, meanwhile, maintained a modest output during this relatively short-lived conquest. The end of the Second World War saw China reclaim Taiwan. This subsequently led to the Chinese reorienting the island’s tea industry towards Green Tea production.
Today, the tropical and subtropical climates of Taiwan remain perfect tea-growing conditions, with the Taiwanese variety known as Formosa Gunpowder being largely considered a better quality brew compared with its Chinese counterparts. This reasonably modern blend is still created using the same Chinese processing method of first withering, then steaming, followed by rolling and drying the tea leaves. Gunpowder Formosa Green Tea has a lighter taste than that of many Chinese Gunpowder beverages and often consists of slightly smoky notes.
Moroccan Mint Tea and Gunpowder Tea?
Recognised as the ‘National drink of Morocco’, Moroccan Mint Tea (also known as ‘Maghrebi mint tea’, ‘Sahrawi mint tea’ and ‘Touareg’) is a delightful combination of Chinese gunpowder green tea with either peppermint or spearmint. It is deeply embedded in Moroccan tradition and culture, and is likewise popular in many other North African and Arabian countries, as well as Spain and even France.
Many historians believe that gunpowder teas were first introduced to Morocco during either the late 17th Century or early 18th Century. One story refers to the British monarch, Queen Anne, who in order to oversee the release of captured British subjects in Morocco, sent a batch of green tea leaves to Sultan Moulay Ismail. It is uncertain whether there is any truth behind this tale, but before this period, it is known that Moroccans enjoyed herbal tisanes made from sage, wormwood and, of course, mint! Alas, it seemed as if it was only a matter of time before these two wonderful ingredients would collide!
Traditionally, the consumption of Moroccan Mint Tea signifies hospitality and affection. If you are fortunate enough to be invited into the home of a Moroccan, you will most likely be offered a glass (or three) of Moroccan Mint Tea. Before a guest is presented with Moroccan Mint Tea, an almost ritualistic tea-preparing ‘ceremony’ must take place. With regard to the timely process required in making this tea, Moroccan hosts adhere to the saying “Insha'Allah”, which in the context of Moroccan Mint Tea’s creation, essentially means ‘with God willing, all good things will come with time’.
Passed down through generations, the art of creating this intriguing Moroccan beverage is typically conducted by the male ‘head of the family’. However, in this day and age, it is not uncommon for a woman to lead the ceremony instead. Aside from the ingredients, meanwhile, beautifully crafted and specially designed Moroccan teaware is vital to uphold tradition. This includes either a tin, brass, aluminum or silver teapot with an intricately made ‘handle cover’ in order to isolate the heat when pouring.
These are typically designed and crafted by local artisans, and depending on the household’s social rank, teapots may also be plated with gold or bear gold motifs and decorations. There should also be a number of similarly ornate tea glasses and a tray made from the same material as the teapot.
To begin the ceremony, the host must first rinse the teapots with boiling water, before adding the gunpowder tea leaves and mint to the pot. Sugar is often added to cater to the Moroccan sweet tooth, followed by more boiling water for infusion. This should be left to steep for a few minutes and then stirred.Once you, the guest, has been made to feel comfortable, the host will return from the kitchen carrying the tray adorned with the long-spouted teapot and several drinking glasses.
The next step takes impeccable precision as the host proceeds to pour the Moroccan Mint Tea into the empty glasses from a height of at least 12 inches. This indicates sublime experience in the art, and should likewise create a thin layer of foam on the surface. If no foam is present, the host will usually make a second attempt with a fresh batch of tea.
Finally, the time has come to enjoy your delicious, nourishing beverage with the company of new friends. Be sure not to refuse this humble invitation, as it is considered very impolite, and you will likely not be invited in again. Today, Morocco is considered one of the largest importers of Chinese Green Tea in the world, predominantly Gunpowder Tea for its use in this mouthwatering brew!
Health Benefits of Gunpowder Tea
Like many other types of tea, including Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong, Gunpowder Tea has suffered from very little historical documentation over many centuries. Instead, a great deal of speculation surrounds this brew’s origins, with very little credible information to be found on the internet outside of conjecture. One thing we do know, however, is that including this beverage in your healthy diet may be one of the best decisions you ever make.
Gunpowder Green Tea, like all other types of Green Tea, is jam-packed with antioxidants. Gunpowder Green Teas are rich in particular antioxidant compounds known as polyphenols - specifically polyphenolic catechins. These catechins can be further subcategorised, with the most vital compound being that of Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).
Not only does this antioxidant have the ability to combat free radicals found in the body, but likewise provides the tea with its characteristic colour and flavour. Gunpowder Black Tea, meanwhile, contains antioxidant compounds such as theaflavin and thearubigin. Although believed to be less substantial in their health promoting properties compared with that of Gunpowder Green Tea, these constituents still have the capability of relieving oxidative stress in the body.
Yet this is just the beginning. Gunpowder Tea has been extensively researched in the last decade alone. It is now known that its frequent consumption alongside a healthy and active lifestyle can offer you all the same amazing benefits as any other Green Tea variety. This includes improved cardiovascular health, a reduced risk of diabetes, and perhaps most impressively, excellent weight management! It should be noted, however, that no two people will experience the same effects from frequent consumption, as many dietary and fitness-related factors must be accounted for in order to receive this brew’s full potential.
It likewise depends on whether you choose Gunpowder Green Tea, Gunpowder Black Tea, or even Gunpowder Oolong Tea as to which benefits you receive and, specifically, how. The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company have compiled some of the latest information surrounding Gunpowder Tea’s health benefits below:
Gunpowder Green Tea and Improved Cardiovascular Health
Reduced levels of nitric oxide (NO) in the endothelium lining of blood vessels is one of the leading causes of atherosclerosis, a chronic disease related to cardiovascular health. Flavonoids found in Gunpowder Green Tea, meanwhile, are believed to improve endothelial function and flow-mediated dilation (FMD). It is suggested that this is because Gunpowder Green Tea improves bioactivity of the endothelium-derived vasodilator, (‘vasodilation’ refers to the widening of blood vessels) nitric oxide, by enhancing its synthesis, according to a study published in the ‘American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’.
The many different forms of cardiovascular disease likewise contribute to oxidative stress, which in turn, causes a disruption in the balance between NO and reactive oxygen. As stated previously, Gunpowder Green Tea can combat this stress through its work in neutralising free radicals. However, it should be recognised that recent evidence has indicated that 10% of global deaths are due to dietary risk factors and physical inactivity. The frequent consumption of Gunpowder Green Tea has minimal effects without taking these factors into account.
Gunpowder Black Tea and Improved Cognitive Function:
Studies regarding this particular health benefit have been largely conducted on ‘regular’ black tea blends, yet the frequent consumption of Gunpowder Black Tea still very much correlates with improved cognitive function. It is believed that drinking just two to three cups of any black tea variety including, of course, Gunpowder Black Tea may reduce the risks of exhibiting the early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.
In Great Britain, an estimated 750,000 people suffer from these conditions every day, but with 168 million cups of black tea likewise consumed in the UK on a daily basis, there may be a new, potential solution, according to new research conducted by the University of Singapore. In this latest study, 2,500 people aged 55 or over underwent a test to measure their cognitive function. When the experiment was repeated two years later, researchers discovered that those who drunk the most black tea were least likely to suffer from cognitive decline. Statistics established that drinking 2-3 cups of Black Tea a day reduced the risks by 55%, while those who consumed six to ten cups a day were 63% less likely.
Gunpowder Green Tea and the Immune System:
Feeling a little ‘under the weather’? Consider drinking Gunpowder Green Tea alongside your other cold and flu remedies. Studies have long since established that this beverage can relieve symptoms associated with the common cold and influenza, as well as warding off the minor illnesses in the first place.
A 2007 study published in the ‘Journal of American College of Nutrition’ saw participants split into two groups. The first group consumed green tea capsules, while the second group was given a placebo. Both groups were instructed to take either their green tea capsules or the placebo twice daily for three months. It was concluded that the green tea capsule group was 32% less likely to experience symptoms of cold or flu, while levels of illness-fighting gamma-delta T cells were also higher compared to the placebo group.
Gunpowder Black Tea and Improved Oral Health:
Much to the surprise of many, Gunpowder Black Tea may help in maintaining that gleaming smile you are so proud of. This is due to a fascinating collaborative study conducted in conjunction with the College of Dentistry at the University of Iowa, USA, and the Institute of Odontology at Göteborg University in Sweden.
The American division of the study, led by professor Christine Wu of the University of Illinois, saw participants given black tea to rinse their mouth with for 30 seconds, five times, and waiting three minutes between each rinse. This concept was used to simulate the effect of sipping the average cup of tea.
The Swedish division of the study, meanwhile, saw test subjects rinse their mouth with Black Tea for one minute, 10 times a day. Both co-operating studies discovered that the more participants rinsed, the more their plaque and bacteria levels fell. This is because the Polyphenolic compounds present in Black Tea can kill or suppress cavity-causing bacteria from either growing or producing acid. The tea also affected the bacterial enzymes and prevented the formation of the sticky-like material that binds plaque to teeth.
Gunpowder Green Tea and Weight Loss:
Once again, Gunpowder Green Tea’s high concentration in the incredible antioxidant, EGCG, holds centre stage this time, helping you to reach that much-desired weight loss goal. Epigallocatechin Gallate is known to have a powerful and positive effect on the body through its stimulating effect on the metabolism. Every time you eat, enzymes in the body’s cells break down food and turn it into energy. Broadly speaking, the metabolism is essentially the process of food-energy conversion.
Ultimately, the faster your metabolism runs, the more calories you will burn; the more calories you burn, the easier it is to drop those pesky pounds. This is where Gunpowder Green comes into play, providing, once again, it is consumed as part of a healthy and active lifestyle. As Gunpowder Green Tea stimulates the metabolism, your body is able to burn fat quicker, and far more efficiently.
Moroccan Mint Tea Health Benefits:
As if Gunpowder Tea leaves alone weren't enough, the addition of peppermint leaves in Moroccan Mint Tea ensures that its outstanding anti-inflammatory properties are almost unmatched. This, in turn, can help with a number of common ailments including, and perhaps most importantly, digestive health.
In a study published in the January 2004 issue of ‘Digestion’, test subjects suffering from an upset stomach were given peppermint extract for four weeks. Following this trial period, participants had a significantly reduced risk of gastrointestinal issues by an astounding 43%.
In another study from 2010 published in ‘Digestive Diseases and Sciences’, 90 patients who suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) were split into two groups. The first group was given a peppermint remedy in the form of an enteric-coated peppermint capsule three times per day for eight weeks. The second group, meanwhile, was given a placebo in the same quantity for the same period of time. Many of the test subjects after the eight week period showed less abdominal pain, and at least 14 participants found themselves completely free of any abdominal pain associated with IBS.
Gunpowder and Reduced Risk of Type II Diabetes:
In the United States alone, 29.1 million people suffer from the chronic condition known as diabetes. Meanwhile, globally, 85-90% of all diabetes sufferers have Type II Diabetes. Blood glucose levels are normally regulated by the hormone known as insulin, but in those who have Type II Diabetes, the pancreas, the large gland in the body that produces this hormone is unable to function at full capacity. This means that insulin levels are generally low, which in turn, means glucose levels are frequently too high. Ultimately, when glucose builds up in the blood instead of being converted into energy, this can potentially cause major damage to multiple areas in the body.
Also, since cells aren’t getting the glucose they need, their functionality decreases. The risks of developing Type II Diabetes are greatly increased when associated with lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, insufficient physical activity, and poor diet. When these factors are accounted for, Gunpowder Green Tea can likewise reduce the risks. One 2006 Japanese Study clearly demonstrated that people who consumed up to 6 cups of any green tea variety a day were 33% less likely to develop Type II Diabetes.
Gunpowder Tea and Stress Relief:
Stress is felt by an estimated 75% of populations in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and South Korea, according to one recent poll. Stress can not only affect our mental well-being, but likewise our physical health. When left unattended, stress can negatively impact your immunity, as well as your sleeping patterns, sex drive, and digestive system health.
All Gunpowder Tea varieties, including black, green, and oolong, can offer a much needed boost in these fast-paced and notably turbulent societies we all live in. An amino-acid known as L-theanine, which can be found in any tea made from the Camellia Sinensis plant (or ‘tea plant’), has been proven to promote alpha brain waves. These brain waves can relax your mind and, in turn, your body without causing drowsiness.
A 2009 study conducted by Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine showed that the frequent consumption of green tea, in particular, reduced psychological stress by as much as 20%. All of this is aside from the fact that there is simply nothing better than sitting back with a nice, hot cup of Gunpowder Tea at the end of your day to calm your mind, body, and spirit - even without the science!
Gunpowder Teas from Us
Now that you know the facts, it is time to try this brew for yourself. We are able to cater to varying tastes through our wide selection of Gunpowder Teas. To start with we have our ‘house’ Gunpowder Green Tea. Without a doubt our most popular Gunpowder, this particular beverage is noted for its captivating earthy aroma, deliciously grassy flavour, and subtle smoky undertones.
Prefer black tea? Then the obvious answer is Gunpowder Black Tea! This wonderfully aromatic and full-bodied tea consists of a subtle but delightful smoky-floral infusion, perfect for any fans of our Lapsang Souchong Teas. Looking to do ‘your bit’ for the environment? Our Gunpowder Organic Green Tea is the one for you. Like any other Chinese Gunpowder Tea, this beverage is easily recognised by its curled and rolled leaves. Yet, unlike many teas, Gunpowder Organic Green Tea is produced using controlled bio cultivation methods.
We also have our Gunpowder Formosa Green Tea which, following our article, you will now know originates from Taiwan. This brew is created with a higher quality leaf compared with that of many other Chinese Gunpowder Teas. Alternatively, we have our much-loved Gunpowder Temple of Heaven Green Tea for those looking to try something a little different! This top quality Gunpowder Tea has a much finer, softer aroma than those of our standard grades, with 85% of the caffeine removed! So, be inspired with The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company!