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Although the name might fool you, gunpowder tea has nothing to do with explosives. Its handle derives from the Chinese "gang pao de," or "fresh-brewed," combined with the appearance of its hand-rolled pellets and their entertaining style of exploding with joy when freshly exposed to hot water.
Its alternate name is pearl tea, and tea-lovers prize it for its smoky, nearly oaken flavor. While some alternatively describe the taste as minty, peppery or grassy, all agree on its coppery after-kick.
Brewing Gunpowder Tea
Chinese green teas in general are easier to brew than the Japanese variety. Although all such infusions must occur below 212 degrees, Chinese teas are less fussy about the exact thermal reading.
To arrive at a good brewing temperature, boil the water in a teakettle and let it cool for two minutes or so until it reaches about 175 F or 79.4 C. You can measure if you must, but it's not necessary.
Teacup or Teapot?
While Westerners will normally brew gunpowder in a teapot, the Chinese often steep theirs in an 8-ounce glass or lidded cup. Either way, it's best to use a vessel made of porcelain or glass and just under 1 teaspoonful of pellets for every 4 ounces of water. Be careful not to use too much. Gunpowder is quite a bit stronger than other green teas.
Brewing Gunpowder Leaves in a Café Cup
Boil your water in a kettle on the stove, and while you're waiting for it to cool, preheat your cafe cups with a swirl of scalding water. Now, insert a pre-filled pyramid icon infuser into each and fill nearly to the top with water from the kettle. Close the lids on the cups and steep for 60 seconds. You're done.
Brewing Gunpowder Leaves in a Glass
TFor this older method, warm the heat resistant glasses as before while letting your boiling water cool for two minutes. Now, add just under 2 teaspoonfuls of loose gunpowder pellets directly into each 8-ounce glass, fill with water from the kettle and brew for 60 seconds.
Brewing Gunpowder Leaves in a Glass Teapot
This simple method returns a slightly mellower brew and requires nothing more complicated than a glass teapot and cups. For each serving, boil 8 ounces of water in a teakettle, and while you wait the two minutes for it to cool, preheat your teapot with a small amount of scalding water and add just under 2 teaspoonfuls of pellets for each 8-ounce serving.
Now, pour the water from the kettle into the teapot and enjoy the show as the gunpowder pellets burst into life and dance around the pot. Just remember to pour the tea after 45-60 seconds regardless of whether the pellets have finished performing.
Most gunpowder pellets are good for up to five infusions. Add 30 seconds to your steeping time for each successive brew.
If you find your tea to be too weak, you can add additional pellets or increase the brewing time. Conversely, if it seems too strong, use fewer pellets or brew for a shorter period. If your tea is too bitter, your water was too hot. A bit of experimentation will result in the cupful of gunpowder tea that suits you best.