Pinhead Gunpowder and Guy Fawkes
November 5th is the perfect time to talk about our Pinhead Gunpowder green tea. For me, this tea conjures up images of Guy Fawkes, a very celebrated and notorious fellow in Great Britain. Born in Yorkshire, I am sure you have seen the mask below on Halloween or in the “V for Vendetta” movies or comic books. Do you know what Guy Fawkes was notorious for besides drinking Yorkshire tea?
“Remember, remember the Fifth of November, Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.”
In 1605 a group of conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, attempted to destroy the House of Parliament by filling the cellar with explosives. Known as the “Gunpowder Plot,” the conspirators wanted a Catholic King rather than the protestant King James I. The plan did not work, and Guy Fawkes was captured, hung, drawn, and quartered for his part in the plot. However, his name lives on. Guy Fawkes Night is a festival in Britain remembering the Gunpowder Plot and the King’s survival.
Every year on 5 November, Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated with bonfires in towns across England. Dummies, or “guys” are burnt atop the fires. A great tradition we children anticipated with excitement was making the “guy” dummies a few days before the 5th. We carried the dummies around the village, shouting “penny for the guy.” The quality of our ‘guy’ was determined by the number of pennies we collected.
Today, the Guy Fawkes mask is worn by protesters to demonstrate their commitment to a shared cause against the establishment, as was Mr. Fawkes’s intent.
Gunpowder Green Tea
And so to our pinhead gunpowder, a classic green tea from Zhejiang province in China is made from leaves rolled into small pellets that look like actual gunpowder. It never ceases to amaze me how many people comment on this fascinating tea. The tiny pellets transform, unfurling into graceful, dancing leaves. If you have a glass teapot, enjoy the performance.
Gunpowder green tea is harvested in April, as this is the absolute best time of year for quality leaves. The leaves are withered to reduce moisture content making them more pliable, steamed, rolled, and dried. Although the individual leaves were formerly rolled by hand, most gunpowder tea is rolled by machines today.
After that, the highest grades are still rolled by hand. This rolling process also renders the leaves less susceptible to any breakage and allows them to retain more of their flavor and aroma. You can determine the freshness of gunpowder green tea by the sheen of the pellets. And the smaller, the better, as the size is associated with quality, hence the name pinhead.
Our Pinhead Gunpowder green tea brews darker than most green teas with a rich flavor and a slightly smokey finish. I have enjoyed Pinhead straight up, infusing multiple times, but it can be brewed very successfully with ginger or peppermint and used as an iced tea.
I hope you enjoyed the gunpowder plot, and please do enjoy many infusions of this classic tea.