I got my gaiwan a few months ago, but I’ve been waiting to use it. I’m not exactly sure why to be honest—I think I was waiting for the “right tea” to break it in. One that would benefit from gaiwan-style brewing but wasn’t high maintenance enough for me to worry about totally ruining the steep. As soon as I sniffed the dry leaves for this, I knew it was the right choice to start out my gaiwan journey! I’m sure it isn’t at all typical to brew a chai this way, but I thought it would be interesting to see what flavors came out on different steeps.
I have a tiny gaiwan, it holds maybe 4 ounces? It’s tiny, and really meant for one person, but I split all the steeps for this with the bf. I thought it would be a fun little tea adventure to do together, even if it meant only tasting half of an already small steep. It came with a cute little set so I had a strainer (since I am not adept at holding the lid right, this was a godsend!) and a pitcher to hold water. It also has tasting cups, but they are REALLY small and the gaiwan makes 4 so I just used smaller mugs. Oh, and there’s a tea tongs holder shaped like a hand… it’s kind of weird, but I don’t have tea tongs so it’s really just decorative.
Steep 1: This steep was a bit bitter, probably because I only did one rinse on the leaves. I wasn’t exactly sure how many it would need and didn’t want to take away too much of the flavor. This was a very oolong-y steep, with pretty much no spice or chocolate to be found, but still tasty! A bit mineral, and I think the vanilla came through.
Steep 2: The chocolatey-ist steep, rich and creamy. It’s caramelly and malty, very rich, with hints of cocoa and honey.
Steep 3: Spicy! I don’t know if there is any pepper in here (I don’t think so, yet mysteriously I taste it), but that is what this steep tastes like. It’s not heat from the ginger, but is warmer and tangier. The chocolate plays a supporting role, and the floral notes were also prominent. I think this was my favorite steep, it has a good balance of everything.
Steep 4: This steep was ginger all the way. Very strong and pungent, with a nice bite. I can taste a bit of the saffron on this steep, adding an almost savory quality to it. It was also quite buttery with a nice hint of cocoa, my second favorite steep.
Steep 5: I think I didn’t let this one brew for long enough, since it was a bit weak yet I’m sure I didn’t run through all the possible brews yet. It had, you know, that generic tea taste but none of the spicy/chocolate notes from previous steeps. Okay, but not my favorite.
I have the used leaves cold brewing in the fridge, so hopefully I’ll be able to pull a lot of use out of these leaves! I’m sure I could have done twice as many steeps, but 5 took about half an hour and I was all tea’d out. It was such fun though, really interesting to go through all the steeps. I have to admit I played it a bit fast and loose with steep times: they were probably between 15 seconds to 2 minutes each. I know, I should pay more attention, but I tried to keep this tea session relaxed. I think it was a great success!
EDIT: Totally forgot to update how this was cold brewed! Well, it was definitely… unique. Not in a bad way, but I got a very strong sage flavor backed up by the ginger that made me think of Thanksgiving dinner. By this point the chocolate was all gone but it was still quite a refreshing cup.