What is Black Gunpowder or Black Pearl Tea?

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Black gunpowder tea is also bl-gunpwd_indiv_0269called Black Pearls—and these small pellets do have a passing resemblance to pearls, especially those that are beautifully rolled into compact balls.

Long Enjoyed in America

Gunpowder tea has been made for centuries in China, and it was ideal for trade with the West. Because the leaves are tightly rolled, they are less exposed to the environment and therefore better maintain their flavor and quality—perfect for a long sea voyage to America, for example!

And Ming’s U.S. Register and New York Pocket Almanac for 1810 enumerates the boxes of gunpowder teas from China that came through the custom house. The duty for gunpowder tea was 32¢ per pound.

An Enduring Favorite

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Brewing gunpowder tea is fun to watch. The tight pellets open up into intact leaves!

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It took two infusions for the pearls to fully open (although this cup is shallow and doesn’t retain the heat well), with the leaves continuing to yield their bold, slightly smoky flavor.


The Black Gunpowder  pictured here is available at TeaHaus; recommended brewing is 1 heaping tsp per 8 oz  filtered, boiling water, for 2–3 minutes.

Why is this tea called “gunpowder”? See previous post.

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