Gunpowder Tea: What It Is, Benefits & Caffeine Content

Jill Caren

With its unique pellet-shaped tea leaves that unfurl when put in hot water, gunpowder tea is a must-try if you are a tea lover. This …

Categories Green Tea

With its unique pellet-shaped tea leaves that unfurl when put in hot water, gunpowder tea is a must-try if you are a tea lover.

This old Chinese green tea holds a special place among tea drinkers all over the world, so it’s good to learn more about its characteristics before you sip a cup of this unique tea with a bit stronger flavor than other green teas.


Gunpowder tea is a Chinese green tea made from tightly rolled tea leaves into leaf pellets.
The tea liquor is deep yellowish in color and the flavor is stronger compared to other green teas with a smokey note.
The famous Moroccan Mint tea is made from gunpowder tea combined with spearmint leaves and sweetened with honey.

What is Gunpowder Tea?

Gunpowder tea is made from green tea leaves that are tightly rolled into leaf pellets that resemble gunpowder grains. The tea leaves are rolled to keep the aroma fresh for the consumer. It’s also known as “Zhu Cha” in Chinese or “Pearl Tea” (nothing in common with Bubble Tea).

The English name “gunpowder” is said to have originated because the small tea balls resemble gunpowder and the ball-shaped tea leaves quickly open and expand in hot water.

You must know that this is not a special type of tea. The term “gunpowder” refers to the appearance of the tea leaves. Black, green, white, oolong tea, and even herbal tisanes can all be gunpowder teas. When we talk about gunpowder tea, we usually mean gunpowder green tea.

The origins of this tea are from Zhejiang Province, on China’s eastern coast. It’s believed that gunpowder first appeared during the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD), and this is one of the first green teas exported from China. It is now produced in various regions of China, as well as Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Japan, Korea, and India.

Flavor Profile

Gunpowder tea is popular among tea drinkers because it has a stronger flavor than other green teas. The aroma and flavor are sealed in by the small pellet-shaped leaves. This shape reduces the amount of time the leaf surface is in touch with the air. The taste is beautifully retained on the inside, and when you put it in hot water, the ball expands and the flavor erupts.

Due to its well-preserved and strong flavor, gunpowder tea combined with spearmint tea creates a well-known blend called Moroccan mint tea. Without gunpowder tea, this popular tea would not have had such a refreshing and unique flavor. Lighter green teas would not be able to maintain the mint flavor as effectively.

This is a refreshing green tea that produces a grassy infusion with a soft honey-like taste followed by a smoky hint. The main characteristic of gunpowder tea is its smokey taste, which is accentuated during the pan-fired drying process.

Types of Gunpowder Tea

There are many different types of gunpowder green tea, depending on the type of leaves used and where they originate from. Don’t forget that there are also oolong teas, black teas, herbal tisanes, and my favorite, Jasmine Pearl Tea, sold as gunpowder teas.

Here are a few popular gunpowder teas to try:

  • Pingshui Gunpowder Tea: This is the most common variety, also known as Pinhead Gunpowder. It is characterized by larger pearls, a stronger fragrance, and a darker hue.
  • Formosa Gunpowder: Produced in Taiwan, this type is extremely similar to Taiwanese oolong teas. It tastes and smells similar to roasted oolong tea.
  • Ceylon Gunpowder: This type comes from Sri Lanka. It has darker leaves and a clear yellow infusion with a woody aroma.

The Caffeine Content of Gunpowder Tea

Gunpowder’s Tea caffeine content is mainly determined by the type of tea and tea leaves used. If the tea is made with younger tea leaves, it usually contains more caffeine than tea made with more mature leaves.

As an experienced tea drinker, I can tell you that smaller tea balls are frequently made with younger tea leaves, which means more caffeine.

If the tea balls are bigger and darker, the gunpowder contains less caffeine. However, this is only a visual guess. The caffeine concentration of gunpowder tea is mostly determined by the variety of tea.

Since the caffeine content of green tea is somewhere between 20 and 50 mg per cup, you can expect the same caffeine levels in gunpowder green tea. It’s usually around 30 mg per cup.

The same goes for the other tea types. For example:

The caffeine content of black tea is in the range of 40 and 80 mg per cup. You can expect the same amount of caffeine in gunpowder black tea too. It usually has around 50 mg per cup.

Furthermore, if you drink gunpowder oolong tea, which has become very popular lately, you may expect roughly 40 milligrams per cup. The caffeine level of oolong teas ranges from 16 to 55 mg per cup.

To get the full picture and have an idea about the caffeine levels in gunpowder tea, the easiest way is to make a comparison with coffee’s caffeine.

An 8 fl oz cup of brewed black coffee contains 70-140 mg of caffeine or approximately 95 mg per cup. So, you see, no matter what type of this tea you choose, the caffeine levels will always be lower compared to a cup of black coffee.

Gunpowder Green Tea’s Potential Health Benefits

Gunpowder green tea is a healthy beverage, and this is confirmed by some studies. You’ll reap all the benefits as with any green tea. If it’s gunpowder black tea, you’ll reap the benefits as with any black tea.

Because gunpowder green tea is the most popular among gunpowder teas, I’ll discuss the possible benefits of this specific type.

So here are some of the benefits of this tea:

  • Rich in catechins (natural antioxidants)
  • Boosts alertness and focus (due to caffeine)
  • Contains L-theanine (an amino acid that promotes a state of calm)
  • Improves cardiovascular health

Rich in catechins (natural antioxidants), especially EGCG. This is one of the primary compounds responsible for green tea’s potential health benefits.

Because of the caffeine content, it boosts mental alertness. Green tea’s caffeine is better than coffee’s because you’ll get a more stable energy boost without the jittery effects associated with excessive caffeine consumption.

It contains an amino acid known as L-theanine, which promotes a state of calm and can help with stress and anxiety. Green tea’s combination of L-theanine and caffeine provides a much milder and different buzz than coffee.

According to a 2015 analysis, there is some evidence that it may improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol.

How to Make Gunpowder Green Tea Properly

  • Quantity: 1 tsp/150 ml loose Gunpowder green tea
  • Water temperature: 176°F (80 °C)
  • Steeping time: 1-2 minutes.
  • Re-steeping: 3-5 times

Tips for brewing properly

Tea quantity: Use only 1 teaspoon of loose tea. Because gunpowder is denser than other teas, you only need 1 teaspoon of loose tea for 150ml (5 fl oz) of water.

Water: It’s always best to use filtered or spring water rather than tap water. When brewing green tea, the water temperature is very important. Green teas should be steeped in cooler water than black or oolong teas.

For gunpowder green tea, the recommended brewing temperature should be around 176 °F (80 °C). If you use boiling water, you may end up with bitter tea.

To get the right water temperature, it is best to use an electric kettle with temperature settings. Another option is to bring a pot of water to a boil and then let it cool for a few minutes. Whatever you do, don’t use boiling water for brewing green tea.

Steeping Time: For the first infusion, the recommended steep time for gunpowder green tea is 1-2 minutes. Add 30 seconds extra for the second or third infusion. Steeping time is critical because over-steeping your tea will make it bitter and unpleasant to drink.

For the initial brew, this steep time may be increased to 3 minutes. It all depends on the sort of green tea and your taste preference. As a result, it is essential to consult with your tea supplier regarding the ideal steeping time for your tea.

When you’re done steeping, you should have a deep yellow liquid with a little smoky note. Don’t add sugar or milk.

The Takeaway

In the end, I just want to say that gunpowder green tea is really unique and different from other green teas. The main difference is its pale shape, and it is a great sight when you see how the tea leaves unfurl in hot water.

With its unique aroma and smokey note, gunpowder tea is a must-try. During brewing, pay attention to the brewing temperature and steep time because, as with any other green tea, if you use very hot water and over-steep it, the tea will become bitter.

This tea is available as tea bags or loose leaves. I always recommend loose-leaf tea over tea in tea bags.

Thank you for reading and enjoy your cup of tea!