Nice porcelain cup for single drinker

Hi all, I’m looking for a nice porcelain tea cup like hand-painted Jingdezhen’s to drink fine Chinese green and oolong teas from. The thing is, vast majority of Chinese cups/bowls are rather tiny 30-60 ml, smaller than usual brewing vessels (I use 100-150 ml), what is unfortunate if you drink alone.

I was wondering how do you approach this problem. Do you simply have a bigger cup, make the tiny amount of tea or use a serving pitcher to reserve tea?

26 Replies

For my Oolong teas and Pu-erh teas, I use this cup: and it is large enough to hold two infusions from my gaiwan.

Geez, you must have a tiny gaiwan.

My gaiwan holds the same amount by the looks of it :3 I use a very similar cup! Not as gorgeous though

That’s less than a two ounce gaiwan. I use a four ounce typically and go through a million steepings a day. I can’t imagine I’d have time for anything else using a gaiwan that small

I see

I’ve been thinking of getting a gaiwan or teapot that size for tasting sheng puerh cakes to see how they’ve aged without using too much tea.

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tperez said

Personally I kinda like drinking from my little cups; it helps me slow down and relax/enjoy the tea more.

When I’m not doing gong fu though, I sometimes use my gaiwan (minus the lid) as a cup. You could probably hunt down a small gaiwan that’s to your liking and use it as a cup, and it comes with a saucer :) hehe

Also, there’s some ebay stores like Dragon Tea House that have lots of different cups, some of them are on the larger side.

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Thanks for your answers.

LiberTEAS: The cup looks nice, 100ml seems to be a good capacity to me. Small enough for several infusions, while large enough to enjoy the tea itself more than the preparation :D. I’m not saying the preparation is bothersome, it just seems unreasonable for me to boil a new batch of water and eventually measure its temperature for every 50ml.

tperez: Gaiwan for drinking is a good idea, I’ll take that into consideration. .. Do you sometimes do the gong fu just for yourself? Do you make it like 1 steep = 1 cup, or using a serving pitcher to get more little cups of every steep?

I like the little cups, they are kind of traditional, with wide variety to choose from, affordable and as you say – allow you to relax/enjoy the tea more. I am just afraid of the proportion of preparation time and drinking, that’s why I have been looking for larger cups mostly. So far, I have found these:

tperez said

Bob: I almost always do gong fu by myself lol. I don’t have many “real life” tea buddies sadly :(

I generally do two gaiwan steeps into my pitcher and drink from a small cup

Those cups all look nice :)

Babble said

I will come drink tea with you sometime, tperez! We can be tea nerds together :)

tperez said

Haha, thanks Rachel. Tea nerds unite!

mrmopar said

got you beat rachel i get tea with tperez first! pu-erh please!

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Angrboda said

It may not be your style and it may not even be easily available, but I rarely use anything but my Roy Kirkham fine bone china. You can all keep your fancy yixing clay and cast iron; pretty fine bone china for me please! :D Anyway, a few pieces of RK china are available from, it might be from your most local amazon as well.

There are definitely nice pieces RK makes, and funny too :D. As you said though, just a bit too colourful and european for what I’m looking for right now :).

UK’s Amazon is actually one of my most local ones. There’s no Amazon in Czech Rep., where I live, too small market I guess.

Angrboda said

Ah, okay. :) I didn’t check where you live, just assumed it was another North American :)

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Claire said

FTG.Bob – I don’t have any cup advice but I love your name!

Thank you :D

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Will said

Part of the reason to use a smaller cup for oolongs is to concentrate the aroma, both before you sip and after the cup is empty. I tend to use smaller cups for oolongs, sometimes slightly bigger ones for pu’ers. I think you could go up to a cup that’s like 60-70 ml (to the rim, so maybe 50 ml of actual capacity). I think that using more than one cup (you can pour from one cup to the other if you want to keep drinking from the same cup), or pour into a sharing pitcher and then into the tasting cup, is the way to go.

Investing in smaller brewing vessels is also a good idea – one that will pay dividends quickly in terms of saving in tea costs. I have a 60 ml eggshell gaiwan that is my constant companion for solo drinking (I have a lot of 50-80 ml pots too, but those are not really necessary, just nice to have). Even with such a small pot, sometimes I’ll pour some tea over the pot. With a 100 ml pot, making 7-12 infusions of a tea, it’s just too much quantity of strong tea for me to drink happily.

For greens, you could try drinking straight out of a 90-120 ml gaiwan, which would be a very appropriate way to drink them.

And if you’re brewing for more casual drinking, you may just want to use a less delicate cup. There are some Japanese style cups, which some people use for draining the teapot on – these might be nice for when you want a larger cup of tea. I don’t have a specific source, but antique ones do turn up on auction sites often.

Thanks for your suggestions, it makes lot of sense.

I don’t usually make so many infusions, so in the end, we drink about the same amount of tea. I could probably go for a smaller brewing vessel for oolongs. They might benefit from higher tea/water ratio.

I have just this weird concern/question – How do you boil 60ml of water? I mean, it’s even below minimum of my small 0.5l electric kettle. Sure, you can use a stove (not so comfortable) or boil more than 60ml, but with spring water I use, it is kind of waste. It comes from water vending machines we have in town, no plastic waste, but still.

Also, I’d like to ask, what shape of the cup do you think is better to concentrate the aroma? A wide one or a tall one?

Will said

I don’t boil 60 ml of water. I do have one smallish kettle (traditionally, gongfucha does use a smaller kettle, so that you can boil fresh water every infusion or two, and so that you can bring the water to a boil faster), but most of my kettles are closer to 1-2 L… But, you don’t have to fill your kettle all the way up. I pre-heat my brewing vessel, and then rinse the tea, and depending on the tea, don’t usually re-boil between that and the first infusion. And, I often shower the pot with water when using a pot. So right there, that’s already ~ 200ml of water or more. Instead of waiting for the entire kettle to be empty, I just top it off as needed. Since I’m brewing each tea many times, I will use quite a bit of water across the period of time I’m brewing tea. Yes, some people are strict about using fresh water for each infusion, but that’s a matter of personal preference and taste.

I would tend to use a tall, narrow cup for greener oolongs, and a shorter one for darker (more “traditional”, that is, more roasted or oxidized ones), but it’s not a hard and fast rule. The good thing is that tasting cups tend to be relatively inexpensive, all things considered, so I think having a good selection of good quality porcelain teacups in different sizes and shapes is really helpful, especially if you ever have guests for tea. I have a large selection of cups, from ~ 20 ml (to the rim) to probably 60-70 ml in size.

Thanks for sharing Will. I have never made any comparison tests, but some say double-boiling of water drives out oxygen, making it taste flat. That’s why I use fresh water for each infusion, stopping the kettle when “fish eyes” bubbles appear .. and have the “boil 60ml problem” :D.

Will said

I know some people who swear by that; others who think it’s a myth. But either way, I think many people find that topping off the water with additional (fresh) water helps reduce this flatness. Yes, boiling 100% new water for each infusion is probably the ideal situation, but for practical reasons, it’s not really an option in most situations (FWIW, there are small clay, brass, and glass kettles, in the 250-400 ml range, which can be used for this purpose, and, in the case of the first two, can be used with a charcoal stove).

And, if you bring the water to a boil, you can probably do the rinse, first infusion and second infusion before needing to reheat the water at all.

If you are only bringing the water to a fish-eyes boil in the first place, I really don’t think the effect will be that bad if you reboil a couple of times. At the least, give it a try, and see if you can discern much difference.

There are some smaller size electric kettles out there, especially some of the induction models, but most of them are not great.

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mrmopar said

i have a cuisinart coffee maker with a hot water dispenser. it is very easy to measure your water in a cup and the put it in your brewing vessel. i think the water is about 200F dispensed from it but i think it is easier than having to boil and measure. this way i just put the measuring cup under it an dispense.

That’s an interesting approach I haven’t thought of. 200F (93.3°C) is high enough for most oolongs and green teas (after cooling). Just a bit over the top for people who don’t drink coffee :D.

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Will said

ps – This style of cup might work well for you:

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It’s a nice looking cup, but it would drive me absolutely crazy drinking my morning tea every morning out of a cup covered in calligraphy if I had no idea what it said.

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