Hello and welcome to Walker Tea Review. I’m Jason Walker here with a few tips on how to use a gaiwan and to talk a little bit about the gaiwan and first off- why use a gaiwan?
Why Use A Gaiwan?
Gaiwans are relatively simple. There aren’t a lot of parts that can wear out. There are no seals that are going to get cracked or damaged. There are no moving parts to really have to worry about.
It’s easy to clean. It’s easy to have just rinse out. If there are some stains over prolonged use it’s easy enough to grab a sponge and scrub that out-it’s accessible you can really get in there and clean it up.
It’s quick for steeping. You’ll adjust the amount of tea leaf that you’re going to use, your water temperature, and time, and that’s going to be relatively quicker than some other methods. Along with that that means you’re going to get re-steeps and because they’re quicker you’re going to get more re-steeps which is going to show you more layers of the tea because you’re steeping it more often and each time you get just a little bit more nuanced differences from the time before.
Sizes, Types, & Materials
Now we want to talk a little bit about the size and material because there are lots of different types of gaiwans and you may be thinking about which one’s the right one for you, or one that is the most multi-purpose.
I like a basic clean plain porcelain gaiwan. Now when you’re choosing a gaiwan the things that you want to consider are:
Size. You might want to go here with a baby bear size which would be more for individual use. You’re going to get a small cup and you’re going to just kind of savor the tea – maybe for a more expensive tea that you want to use very sparingly. Or you could go with a papa bear size, which would be useful if you’re serving more than one person- so you want to be able to share that out among more people.
Other things that you want to consider- porcelain is fairly versatile. You can steep green, black, wulong, or other kinds of tea in a basic porcelain gaiwan, compared to some thicker ceramics or clay gaiwans that might hold more heat and might overcook some of your delicate green or white teas. A thinner porcelain gaiwan distributes and radiates heat quickly more evenly.
Using A Gaiwan
There are three main parts. The saucer at the bottom, the actual bowl or cup here in the middle, and your lid. Sometimes you might just see offered a the bowl and lid, here but a lot of times you’ll get the saucer as well.
One of the things to consider is that with the gaiwan you’re probably going to be using more tea than you would with some other brewing vessels. I generally find a serving of dry leaf that covers 80% of the lid will usually work. You can see here I’ve got some measured ready to go I’m going to just pour that right in, and that covers about a 1 – 1.5 inch diameter of the bottom of this 3 oz size gaiwan.
So now I’m going to just pour my water. One of the main considerations here is that you want to make sure that all the leaves get coated. You want enough water so that a little bit rests just above the rim of the lid.
Having a towel is always handy because you may be have some dribble from your gaiwan. If you’re serving more than one person, it’s useful to have a pitcher. If you don’t want to have any tea leaves falling down into your pitcher, or if you’re serving directly into a cup a nice mesh strainer there is helpful.
To serve (decant), I’m actually going to just angle my lid over to the side. This is one of the most more familiar ways- but it takes a little more practice. Angle your lid over to the side and pour directly in and that gives you a nice steep. Brief steep times come in handy if you’re in a hurry; if you’re in a workplace you only have a few seconds to make a steep that’s something that you may want to consider.
The other thing to note is there is more than one way to hold a gaiwan. If you are concerned about the how hot your gaiwan may be- boiling water in thin porcelain gaiwan can get quite hot. You may want to try something like the inverted-sandwich-hold: like holding a hamburger upside down.
You can also drink straight from the gaiwan. Angle your lid over to the side just a little bit so that you the opening is facing you, and drink straight from the gaiwan as shown.
I hope these are useful tips for using a gaiwan.
See also: Good Gaiwan – What Is It?