PersonaliTeas: The Complete Guide to Gunpowder

July 22, 2020

by Abby Morrison

We’ve been learning a lot in our Personaliteas series, where we’ve already learned the ins and outs of Earl Grey, Dragonwell, and Lapsang Souchong. This time we’re going to look at a tea with some real bang for your buck: Gunpowder.

What is it?

Generally speaking, gunpowder tea speaks specifically to the way that a tea is prepared, not to a specific type of tea itself. That being said, most gunpowder teas are going to be either green or oolong teas. For the purposes of this article, we will focus primarily on the green variety and unless otherwise stated, that is the assumed version to which we’ll be referring.

They are characterized most by the pellet shape that the tea leaves are rolled into, which not only protects them from damage and helps them keep their flavor and aroma, but is also the reason for their unique name, though you can also have “pearl” teas that use a similar method. Originally, this was done by hand, though now most teas are rolled using machines.

Often used in North Africa and the Middle East, if mint and sweeteners are added, it can also be turned into North African or Moroccan Mint tea, which is at the heart of the Moroccan Tea Ritual. Traditionally, this is a ritual wherein the head male in a family prepares tea for guests. The tea is left in the pot so that the flavor changes over time and is typically served in three servings throughout a day or visit. There is even a Maghrebi proverb about this: “The first glass is as gentle as life, the second is as strong as love, the third is as bitter as death.” Beautiful!

Preparation and taste

As this method can apply to multiple kinds of teas, the flavor is of course going to vary by what kind of tea was rolled into gunpowder pellets or pearls. Traditionally speaking though, green gunpowder tea will have a smokey flavor, providing yet another reason for its unique name.

For steeping, we recommend 180° F (82° C) for two minutes. Because gunpowder tea pellets expand when added to water, make sure not to pack them in too tightly in infusers, with bags or teapots being the better option to make sure they have room to release their flavors. It can be steeped multiple times, with subsequent brewing times recommended to be only one minute. It is well suited to sweetener, adding either honey or sugar to taste.

Gunpowder is typically enjoyed hot, but in its Moroccan Mint form, it can also be enjoyed as a refreshing iced tea, especially when enjoyed with sugar.

At Adagio, we sell our gunpowder tea in our usual sample and bag sizes, as well as in tea bags, single-serving portions, and in our Green Teas of China sampler, which also includes our Dragonwell, White Monkey, and Sleeping Dragon teas.

Flavor pairings

As mentioned above, gunpowder has a smokey taste, though milder than its smokier, black tea cousin Lapsang Souchong. Because of this, it is going to pair well with smokier dishes, including proteins like pork, fish, or beef, spice rubs, or barbecue dishes. Because it is not quite as smokey as Lapsang Souchong, it also pairs well with side dishes that can benefit from only a touch of smokiness.

As gunpowder tea also obviously pairs well with herbs like mint and sweeteners, it can also be lightened up to use in more delicate desserts. This recipe for Gunpowder Green Tea Syrup suggests that it can even be used as a topping for things like desserts, sodas, or as a sweetener in cocktails, with a few varieties of gunpowder tea gin also on the market.


If you’d like to start cooking with gunpowder tea, our TeaChef website has several great offerings to get you started. Here are some of the ones we’d most like to try.

Gunpowder Shrimp (two varieties, here and here)
Gunpowder Mango Salsa
Couscous with a Bang!
Moroccant Mint Ice Cream
Gunpowder Rice Cooked Sushi
Explosive Tilapia
Gunpowder Curried Chicken
Gunpowder Carrot Chutney

If you try any of these, remember to rate and review them on TeaChef, pictures always welcome. Make sure to share your culinary creations with us on social @adagioteas too and you’ll get TeaPoints towards your next purchase.