Saturday, April 5, 2014

Gunpowder tea review

I've been looking for an alternative to the Japanese standard green tea sencha for a while now. Sencha is fine, but to me it leans a bit to too much to the bitter-astringent side. My previous attempt with the Longjing didn't pan out, so I went for a less ambitious grade of green and see how that would turn up. I set my sights on the gunpowder after hearing about it for a while and thanks to a final push by Pettigrew's guide, bought it.

From the very beginning I expected it to be something radically different in its aspect. I expected gunpowder tea to be, well, powder. It is not. Gunpowder tea consists of rolled up green tea leaves into small pellets. When these expand in water they take five times as much volume than when dry, so an appropriately large steeping basket is the way to go when brewing it. At least the one I've got here, which  comes from my local provider, has some noticeable debris that come out  when the leaf uncurls. Could be particles of the same leaf, but to me it looks like dirt. Luckily, the brew itself appears to be unaffected.

The liquor is stronger than the Longjing but softer than the sencha.  Once again, the leaf is very tolerant to prolonged steeping or resteeping. A teaspoon might be enough for 32 oz of water. Speaking of water, the tea appears best-brewed when it is just rumbling than near boiling or after-boiled. Unlike all my other teas, one wants to keep on swallowing with this one; as it cools, the more pleasant it gets. Call me crazy, but I've been leaving a cup of this over the last few weeks for a middle of the night drink instead of plain water and not only does it do the job, but also still tastes quite good. This one too is non-grassy (now that I come to think of it I've had a good run avoiding those of late). 

From what I read, it is a very popular beverage in Morocco where mint is added and I can taste why. It is very refreshing, especially when it has had time to cool off. In my short experience, it is probably among the top three in this area.


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