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.
Scones Jam or cream 1st
Grahame and I have just come back from England. Drinking lots of TEA was certainly on the agenda, in part due to the inclement weather we had for the whole 2 weeks! So it was ‘Oh well, let’s have another cuppa.’
Peacocks Tea Room
Our first tea outing was planned, and it was actually a sunny afternoon when we arrived in the city of Ely in Southeast England. Laura had reserved a table at Peacocks Tea Room, and it was just delightful.
The afternoon tea was excellent, consisting of 3 different sandwiches, scones with your choice of jam, followed by a cake of your choice. I managed to eat the sandwiches and scone but had to take my cake home. There was too much food to finish. This was all washed down with copious amounts of tea (we all chose different ones!) served in individual teapots.
During afternoon tea (an earlier post explains the difference between high tea), we debated the best way to eat scones. If you were following correct etiquette, then you would place your clotted cream and jam on the side of your plate. Select your scone, slice in half, and break into a bite-sized piece. One would then apply cream and jam (or lemon curd from a blog post from the Spring) as each piece was eaten, taking sips of tea in between.
However, I am not talking correct etiquette here. In Yorkshire (a post bit about my hometown Harrogate), we don’t mess about with bite-sized pieces! Our debate was, ‘Do you put jam on first before cream or cream on first before jam?’
I have always put jam on first. And I have never really thought about changing the habit of a lifetime of scone eating. However, this new routine totally changed the taste experience, and I loved it. Grahame really enjoyed it too! Let us know which way you like your scone: scones Jam or cream 1st. Please post on our Facebook page.
Thanks to Laura for finding this gem of a tearoom and thanks to Peacocks for the delicious afternoon tea.
This holiday was our second of the summer. We visited northern Michigan in the Spring, and here is a link to my earlier post.