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A gaiwan is a traditional Chinese tea vessel. It consists of three pieces: a thin-walled handle-less cup, a lid and a saucer. The difference with (large) teapots is that gaiwans allow you to brew and enjoy smaller and more importantly better tasting tea. The small tea vessel is able to bring out the finer notes in your tea to really maximise your taste experience.
Gaiwans come in different types of material: glass, clay or porcelain. A porcelain gaiwan is the most versatile as it can be used to brew all kinds of tea. The cup usually has a flared lip so you can easily hold it between your thumb and middle finger without burning your fingers. A gaiwan can be used as a tea cup, but generally they are used as a tool to brew tea instead of a teapot.
How to use a gaiwan to brew tea:
- Warm up your gaiwan (and tea cup(s)) with hot water.
- Add your tea leaves to the gaiwan.
- Pour hot water over the leaves and close the lid.Optional step: Pour out and discard the water immediately to rinse and wake up the tea leaves (helps to release the aroma of the tea), and refill the cup with hot water.
- When the tea is brewed (brewing in a small tea vessel like a gaiwan requires shorter steeping time, generally about 30-45 seconds depending on the type of tea), you pour the tea from the gaiwan into a cup or pitcher. You do this by placing the lid at a slight angle to the rim so that the tea can easily flow out but not the leaves. You hold the gaiwan using your thumb and middle finger to grip the rim and your index finger to hold on to the top of the lid. Make sure to drain all the tea into your cup(s) after each infusion to avoid over-steeping your tea leaves.
- Refill the gaiwan with hot water to enjoy several re-infusions.