American-sized (i.e., big) gongfu teaware?

All right, I’ve been checking out a lot of teaware sites lately because I will be making a couple of different teaware purchases this year and wanted to get recommendations.

The issue is that 40 ml cups and 100 ml gaiwans do not work for my American brain. I am never going to brew that little at one time. I’d like to find a gaiwan that’s 8-10 ounces and cups that are 6-8 ounces? Otherwise, things will overflow and I’ll always have big spills. I’ll also take 2 sips and then get annoyed that it’s already time to rebrew.

The problem is that I don’t see a lot of options. Yes, I have found a handful here and there, but even the items described as “large gaiwan” are sometimes no more than 150-200 ml.

I’ve ordered teaware from unknown eBay shops in the past and had very bad results (like the yixing in which the clay started chipping off while I boiled it). If I can’t find anything, I’ll just buy from the “large gaiwan” offerings I’ve found, but I actually was wondering if you could recommend anything?

As cups go, I really like the short round double-walled glass teacups, and I can’t find those anywhere in a larger size. I had one from A Southern Season that I broke this week, but they don’t sell it online.

Edit: And yes, I know this is me Americanizing a traditional tea practice, I really do… And that we are simplistic and like our food and drink in big quantities. But I want to enjoy the tea I’m buying and not feel constantly annoyed with it. And the tiny gongfu sets just…don’t work for me. I may get one for doing tastings with other people, but to use consistently? No.

Added comment: So, one thing that I neglected to mention in the post: The gaiwan doesn’t have to be full. I’d prefer not to fill it up all the way. I have weak hands, ankles and feet (that’s the hallmark of this muscular disease I have, and I’ll always slosh things around — always have with full cups). This thing also causes some bone abnormalities in the feet — I’m having some special ankle-foot orthotics made that might help, but basically… At coffee shops, I always wondered why other people could walk with full porcelain coffee cups and not spill them — and the liquid always looked so still and calm. But I couldn’t. Anyway… The way my feet and ankles are, I can’t really walk without shuffling my feet, which is why I spill everything.

So basically I need a gaiwan slightly bigger than what I want to brew.

27 Replies

You’ll get over it pretty quick. I was the same way. The problem with Western style brewing is that you make more than you can drink in that moment, and it’s too hot. So you let it cool down. Then you drink a little bit and forget about it and it gets too cold. So you put it in the microwave again. Then it’s too hot. You end up repeating that process for the same 6-8 ounces of tea or coffee all day.

With gongfu style brewing you make just what you’re ready to drink right then. The tea stays warm in the fairness cup and you pour out just what you sip in the next minute or so. It works really well.

You can find large gaiwans, but they get a bit unwieldy to use. If you really want to brew gongfu style but drink western style just get an average size gaiwan and brew two brews back to back and pour into a mug. That’ll do what you want.

Yeah, I have done that since my big gaiwan broke this week. It was indeed unwieldy to use, and burned my fingers (which is why I dropped and broke it this week). I’ve been combining steeps for the past few days since then.

And really I’d be okay with steeping in a small gaiwan and combining 2-3 steeps at a time, but it’s harder for me to find larger tea cups, especially the double-walled glass kind.

I don’t like teapots because it’s harder to watch the leaves unfurl and more of a pain to clean. Hm… I’ll keep looking a little, I guess. I don’t have huge hands, but when I was a failed child piano student… The teacher always told me I had long fingers which are perfect for piano, which is why no one ever understood why I couldn’t get good at it. Also, they may not be long anymore now that I’m an adult. I don’t know how to judge.

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300ml gaiwan

actually just found this and was talking in chat about it hahhahaha

300ml gaiwan is pretty big. I’d be using 20 grams of pu’er in that and that’s too much expense.

Interesting. I’d probably have trouble getting my hand around one that big. I wouldn’t totally fill it up. It’s just… With the small ones, I pour them full and then slosh it all over everything.

probably just better using a teapot or a soup bowl.

But yeah I know what you mean. I’ve gone on and now I like gaiwans under 100ml. 90ml is my fav right now. I got a 90ml tea pot I quite like too these days. Eventually I just take the tea set up to the desk and drink that. I got even smaller for more expensive teas.

I also run the problem is I got small hands so smaller gaiwans work better for me. Or I just burnt myself so many times I don’t notice anymore.

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t-ching said Here is a 240ml gaiwan. They have a 13 percent off Sale this weekend too

Perfect. But a little more than I had planned on spending right away (as I tend to drop things). I like that it’s tall, so it wouldn’t be too wide for me to hold comfortably. There are only 5 in stock. Ugh… I hope they’ll reorder.

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LuckyMe said

I can empathize. Not too long ago I couldn’t wrap my brain around 150 ml teapots and 50ml teacups either. But gongfu works because of the small size. An 8-10oz gaiwan would require a ton of leaf and would be rather difficult to handle unless you have a very large hands. Also I find that some teas just taste best when brewed in small vessels. Like some recipes don’t do well when scaled up.

As a solution, you could get a larger gongfu cup – I have a few that are ~2.5 to 3 oz – or larger Japanese which hold between 4-6 oz. You could also combine your steeps first into a cha hai so you don’t have to rebrew so frequently.

But it doesn’t have to be totally full. I don’t have very large hands, but there’s a tall one from YS that someone posted up here. I spill full gaiwans.

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Additional comment added to original post.

I would totally look into just getting a small tea pot, it’s easier to pour and less messing around.

Often I don’t even pour my pot, I just plop it in the strainer over the pitcher and let gravity do the work.

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I don’t see the capacity listed here and am not sure how it works, but this looks promising:

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AJ said

300ml gaiwans are already verging on unwieldy, I couldn’t imagine being able to pick up a 8-10oz gaiwan and then pouring delicately from it. I’d burn my hands… and then drop it.

I just had a thought, though: Since you said you weren’t a fan of a classical teapot (I know, I like to see the leaves too on occasion), but gaiwans really are kind of stuck with a size-cap.

Why not look into easy gaiwans, or japanese houhin/houbins, shiboridashis, or kyusus (I suggest kyusus because even though they are more of a teapot, they have a very large opening/lid which gives you lots of room to look in).

As far as I know, ‘easy gaiwans’ are just shiboridashis, but…

Easy Gaiwan:

I suggest these, because then you’re not stuck fiddling with a saucer, and they have a lip that keeps the lid in place, so they’re a lot easier to handle overall, which if you’re looking for a larger capacity (which the last three styles would have) might be ideal. And they all either have no lid, or a large lid for viewing the leaves.

Good point about the kyusus, I’ve been looking at those as well.

Also, thanks, I’ll check out the links you provided. So far the easy gaiwans I’ve seen haven’t been the right size.

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@AJ: I think you’re right that Japanese teaware would solve all my problems. My only concern is that I’m worried it won’t stand up to boiling water when all the descriptions say, for instance, that the kyusu was made for steeping sencha. Thoughts?

AJ said

Although tradition dictates they’re used for green teas, that shouldn’t change how they’re made/standard they’re held to pottery-wise. Both because (the makers must assume) many people will still use boiling water regardless, or will poor the boiling water to cool in the teapot before adding the leaves, and because properly fired ceramics in general should be able to withstand the change in temperature fine (short of maybe putting it in the freezer before pouring boiling water on it).

But I’m definitely not an expert on ceramics. I haven’t any of the more wabi-sabi or traditional designs I posted, but mine has held up fine to boiling water.

Dr Jim said

I can’t help specifically with the kyusa, but I’ve been using Japanese tea pots and cups for over a decade for Black tea using near-boiling water and have never had a problem. These were purchased in small shops in Japan.

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For what it’s worth, when I started drinking tea about six years ago I used a 24oz teapot and 12oz cups. I couldn’t imagine ever being satisfied by anything less. Soon thereafter I found myself switching to 11oz cups. A year or so later I bought a 12oz teapot and began using 6oz cups. This lasted for several years until I became enthralled with Japanese greens, which converted me to a 6oz kyusa and 3oz cups. A year or so later I also began using a gaiwan for most other teas. Now I most often find myself using a 130ml gaiwan and 130ml cup.

I have no idea how this happened. I had no intention of reducing the amount of tea I brew at any given time, but as my enjoyment and knowledge of tea steadily grew so my cup size seemed to be reduced. My wife regularly teases me that if this trend continues soon I won’t have a tea habit left at all, and whenever we are in thrift stores she will casually point out doll-sized teacups and suggest that they would make a great next cup. I must admit for a moment I was afraid that somehow tea was trying to ween me off of itself, but that can’t be the case because, really, I drink as much tea now as ever.

I know that none of this will help you now, but I just wanted to warn you. Give it some time and who knows how small your teacups will end up being.

A real suggestion though… If you don’t mind their utilitarian look, pyrex graduated cylindars make amazing tea brewing utensils. You can choose any size, they are easy to measure water into, and they display leaves beautifully. As a bonus many inexpensive sugar bowl lids will fit perfectly right on top.

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Cwyn said

Seems like the selection for tea ware 200 ml and up is far more diverse. Anything under 150ml and especially under 100ml sells out fast while the bigger pieces sit there in inventory. I’ve often wondered why western facing sellers don’t stock up more on the small pots because they sell out instantly.

I’d get a kyusu if you want big but don’t want to bother straining loose leaves. The fine mesh filters are meant for smaller leaves of Japanese teas and filter pretty much everything.

Really? I feel the opposite, but maybe because I’ve been looking mainly at Chinese companies. Anyway, I’ve more or less decided that a kyusu is the way to go.

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