Gunpowder tea is not one of the three main types of tea: true tea made from the Camellia sinensis plant, herbal tisanes, and flavored teas. Instead, the term refers to the appearance of different types of teas. Black teas, green teas, white teas, and herbal tisanes can all be gunpowder teas. The term refers to the tightly-packed and rolled appearance of tea leaves that mimic the look of gunpowder pellets. Learn more about gunpowder tea from the highest grades and different types to where to buy it. 

What Is Gunpowder Tea?

Gunpowder tea is a type of tea from China — typically grown in Zhejiang Province — that derives its name from the appearance of rolled tea leaves that resemble tiny pellets. The tea is typically made using green tea leaves or oolong tea leaves. Each tea leaf is tightly rolled into a small ball that looks similar to gunpowder pellets. It is similar to pearl tea, except that the tea leaves are much smaller.

You may be wondering why the tea leaves are rolled to begin with. By tightly rolling the tea leaves, the leaves are able to maintain a higher degree of freshness and more potent flavors and aromas. Additionally, rolled teas like gunpowder tea can be aged, further developing exquisite flavors and high-quality teas.

The best gunpowder teas are the freshest. Look for pellets that have a mild shine on the outside. The highest grade of gunpowder tea is labeled as 3505AAA and high-quality varieties are characterized by tiny pellets rather than larger pellets.

The caffeine content of gunpowder teas varies depending on the type of tea. Herbal tisanes don't contain any caffeine while all true teas have some form of caffeine. For high caffeine teas, stick to black tea, oolong tea, and pu-erh tea. For low caffeine teas, opt for gunpowder white teas or green teas instead.

gunpowder tea: leaves and cup

How is Gunpowder Tea Produced?

Gunpowder tea has been produced in China for centuries. The first known production of gunpowder tea can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty, which ruled China from 618 to 907. The tea leaves are harvested and withered to reduce moisture content. Green tea leaves are dried in direct sunlight to prevent oxidation while oolong gunpowder teas are allowed to oxidize for a predetermined amount of time. The leaves are then steamed or pan-fired to end the oxidation process. Before the final drying process, the leaves are tightly rolled either by hand or using machinery and packaged for sale.

Types of Gunpowder Tea

Just about any type of tea can be made as a gunpowder tea since the term refers entirely to the appearance of the tea leaves. On the market, you'll find a range of gunpowder green teas, black teas, as well as herbal tisanes such as jasmine tea that are sold as gunpowder teas. 

Pingshui Gunpowder

Also known as Pinhead Gunpowder or Temple of Heaven Gunpowder teas, typically features larger pearls. It boasts a rich golden color and a vibrant aroma that makes it popular among tea lovers.

Formosa Gunpowder

Formosa Gunpowder tea is cultivated in the Keelung area of Taiwan. This type of gunpowder tea typically consists of roasted oolong teas rather than green teas or white teas.  It offers a hint of smoky flavor and brews into a beautiful golden brown hue in teacups.

Ceylon Gunpowder

Ceylon Gunpowder tea is cultivated exclusively in Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon. This type of tea is similar to Chinese gunpowder green tea.

How to Brew Gunpowder Tea

Since gunpowder tea can be any type of tea, the brewing methods are varied. In general, the water temperature for gunpowder tea should be around 155 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Use one teaspoon of tea leaves for every eight ounces of water and steep for one to two minutes.

Gunpowder Tea: Explosive Flavor and Stunning Visuals

Gunpowder teas come in tiny pellets that explode in an infusion of flavor and color when they're steeping in hot water. It's a great tea for people who enjoy a visual dimension to their tea brewing. Add a scoop of loose leaf gunpowder tea to your infuser and steep in a teapot. From floral and airy flavors to a rich smokiness or grassy hints, there is a gunpowder tea for everyone. 

Try a loose leaf tea sampler to discover your favorite teas and find the best gunpowder tea flavor for your taste buds. From Moroccan mint to black tea, just about every tea except powdered teas like matcha is available in gunpowder form. Whichever loose tea you pick, you're sure to enjoy the delightful flavor and a cup of tasty health benefits.