Gunpowder tea is probably the best-known variety of Chinese green tea and the main producing area is in the Shao Xing region of Zhejiang province. It takes its English name from the fact that the tightly rolled green leaves resemble the powder used in cannons on 18th century British ships, but the name could just as easily have come from the way the pellets explode into many times their dried size in hot water. In Chinese, however, it is called zh chu – meaning. “pearl tea” or “bead tea” and the leaves are rolled up into balls to preserve freshness.
When fully steeped, the tender whole leaves unfurl revealing a deep, rich flavor. Gunpowder is more dense than other teas so if you are making a teapot full you only require one or two teaspoons for a teapot. Gunpowder tea production dates back to the Tang Dynasty, but it was first introduced to Taiwan in the 1800s.