Emily M said

Questions about Gaiwan set

My neighbor travels a lot for work, and recently he’s been going back in forth to China (as he met a girl there and fell in love…awww). After figuring out how much of a tea fanatic I am, he and his girlfriend decided to get me an awesome present from China!
I received this the other night. It’s a tea set which includes a gaiwan, a sharing pitcher, and 8 tea cups. They also picked up what she said was a “tea idol” (a frog statue) and a nice Chinese strainer (don’t know the correct term for this) with a stand. Needless to say, I was pumped. I have a few pics up on flickr. Here’s a link to one of the pics.


There are other pictures if you click through my photostream.

Anyway, as this is my first gaiwan I have some questions.
1. How much tea do you normally put in a gaiwan?
2. What kind of steeping times do you use for multiple steep sessions?
3. Do you increase the time on each steep or keep it the same?
4. Any tips on how to pour the tea from the gaiwan without getting tea everywhere? ;P
5. Are there any official names given to the pitcher and the tea cups? Or the strainer, for that matter?
6. What’s your favorite tea to steep with your gaiwan? (Just for fun!)
7. Does anyone have any more information on the “tea idol”?

I tried this today with what I thought was some success (and some spills), but would really like to hear how you all prefer to use your gaiwan so I can try some things out!

Thanks in advance!

45 Replies

Someone else will be far better at answering this than me but heres my two cents.
1. 1/4th volume of gaiwan for oolongs, 1/5th volume for pu`erh
2. depends on the tea. usually 2 second rinse then 30-15-30-45-60…
3. definitely increase
4. practice
5. i have no clue.
6. any oolong. i /really/ like Della Terra’s Creme De la Creme Oolong
7. not me

I want this tea set! Its so cute! I want it I want it I want it!

Emily M said

Thanks for the help! I know, it’s really cute! I was so excited! =)
Now I just need a nice tea tray to make it look really nice!

I actually disagree with yappychappy. It all depends on the tea (I typically brew oolongs and strong sheng puerh) and how you like to drink it
1. I use a gram per 20 or 15 ml of water. It ends up seeming like a lot of tea (almost the whole gaiwan, sometimes it pushes up the lid)
2. I do flash infusions. Pour the water in, count to around 5, and then pour out. If the flavor weakens I increase brew time. Theres no formula or specific time it all depends on the tea and what kind of flavor you like
3. Depends on tea and flavor. If you pack the gaiwan all the way with tea you can usually go 5-12 infusions without increasing time
4. practice is right
5. Pitcher is cha hai
6. High mountain oolong. I have yixing for puerh and dark roast oolong
7. If its yixing you are supposed to pour a little tea and your waste water over it so it gains patina. It eventually gains a character after many many uses

I’m failing to see where you disagree with me?
1. my amounts of tea were general guidelines and comparable to the amounts you listed
2. I clearly said infusion time depends on the tea..
3. I’d recommend reading web pages on brewing gong fu tea in any preparation style before I recommend against increase infusing time between steeping and especially packing the gaiwan all the way with tea. Again, this is user preference.

Like Kasumi no Chajin I’m quite tired of these subjects coming up and someone immediately responding with, “I disagree”, “you’re wrong”, “this is the right way”, etc.

Emily M said

Insence&Tea – Thanks for sharing.

Too each their own. I just wanted to see what others liked to do. No right or wrong answers. =)

I forgot to mention, when I prepare a tea gong fu style for the first time I tend to taste the wash water to judge how strong the tea is and if I should do 5, 15, or 30 second first infusions.

Emily M said

Thanks for the tip! =)

Do you wash all tea? The only teas I do a wash for are shu puerh and some really strong or aged sheng

TeaVivre said about a year ago
In the Chinese brewing style, it seems that rinsing the tea become a necessary step. We usually see that lots of the tea lovers will rinse the tea before brewing, so do I.

The purpose to rinse the tea is to remove the impurities which contain in teas. However, the more important thing is to wake up the tea, to make the tea leaves unfold as well as make the active ingredients contain in the tea can be easily to dip out, this is the fundamental purpose of rinsing tea.

When rinsing the tea, we should pay attention to two things:

1: Do not rinse the tea for a long time. Because the first brewed tea contain more active ingredients, which are not only beneficial to human’s health, but also taste good. Therefore, the first brewing, also means rinsing tea, the liquor should be poured out in 3 second. If the time lasts too long, the active ingredients in the tea will be lost in large amount.

2: As for the high quality green teas, the rinsing temperature should not to be too high. High quality green teas are usually made with the young buds which picked in early spring, if the temperature is too high, we can’t get the purpose of rinsing tea, and the active ingredients will be loss too. Even, it will affect the quality of brewed tea taste.

In addition, tea, such as Longjing, white tea in china, there is no need to rinse for its comparative tender leaves. However, the Oolong tea and pu-erh tea must be rinsed before brewing.

Emily M said

I always rinse my oolongs and my pu-erh. Whites, greens, blacks and herbal/tisane I don’t rinse most of the time.

I used to rinse oolongs but I’ve started drinking the first brews, especially rolled or aged, and am sad that I used to throw away the rinse. It can be really delicious, picking up a lot of the sweetness without other flavors. I’d recommend trying it

Emily M said

I usually do taste the rinse, but I also use it to warm my small serving tea cups/pour over my tea pet so it has a few other uses. Thanks for sharing!

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Will said

The sharing pitcher is called a “fair cup” (“gongdaobei”) or “tea ocean” (“chahai”). The latter is a little more common among people I know, but it can also refer to some other teaware items. A lot of the terminology kind of varies from region to region.

The tea cup is just called a tea cup (“chabei”).

You don’t need to use the fairness cup if you don’t want to — you can also directly decant from the gaiwan, hopping from cup to cup. However, the fair cup does make it a little bit easier to get the same strength and quantity of tea in each cup without a lot of practice.

I think the amount of tea to use, number of times to re-steep, etc. varies some depending on the type of tea, your personal taste. With oolongs and pu’ers, many people would use a somewhat higher amount of tea (though you don’t have to), with green or white tea, maybe a smaller amount of tea. It’s hard to say by volume, since different teas take up different amounts of space (even within a particular tea “genre”). I mostly just eyeball it, but if you want consistency and don’t find it distracting, a scale is a much more accurate way to measure tea quantities.

Really, personal taste is the most important thing in terms of brewing parameters – don’t worry too much about doing it “correctly”. I would also suggest not “measuring” so much – just learn to gauge the time, temperature, amount of tea, etc. via your own senses.

In terms of pouring, there are two basic methods – the one with thumb and middle finger on opposite sides of the rim, middle finger on the knob (no saucer), or index and middle finger under the saucer (after lifting the saucer up with the non-dominant hand), and thumb over the knob. I prefer the first method. In terms of not spilling, just don’t be too tentative, and just crack open the lid a tiny bit.

Emily M said

Will – Thank you for all that info! =)
I think I prefer the first method as well. Holding the saucer makes me feel like I might drop it!

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mrmopar said

Wow that is a nice set! Experiment with the volume of tea to water. Everyone has a different method but if you experiment you will find your “sweet spot” in terms of leaf and water volume. Just be sure to double check the temperature for each type of tea you use. This is almost as important to the amount of tea you use. Different teas have very different temps for steeping. If I could ask where did they pick up this great set at?

I know right? I wish they would pick one up for me. I want it I want it! Yeah the water temp is the only thing I’d really trust from any source as beyond that everything is largely based on user preference.

You can get this set from “JKTea” for $42.80
Its under teaware gift sets at the bottom of the page. I’ve been looking at it for over a week now! I also – Want it! Want it! Want it!

I still want the Buddha in teavivre’s gaiwan pictures.. :\
THat one!

Ugh its only 150 cc/5 oz. I was thinking the gaiwan was at least 8 oz. I want a bigger one for sharing.

Emily M said

The one from “JKTea” has a different saucer and a bit of color variation, but otherwise seems the same. I really like this pattern!
I don’t know exactly where they were, but I know they were in and around Shanghai. I should ask, because they’ve been other places as well and I don’t know on which trip they picked it up. They said they’ve had it since Thanksgiving time. Seems like it could’ve been at any market place. They did barter for it, as I’m told is quite normal at these markets. Sounds like fun, as long as you know how to barter well!

yappychappy – The 5oz works well for me, as I only share with one/two people at most. It fills up four of the teacups, so it works out well for my needs. =)

My little sister and I tried it out today, and had lots of fun trying to describe the multiple steepings!
It really is gorgeous. And it’s one of my favorite colors to boot! And, hey – free!
mrmopar- Thanks for the input!

Glad you enjoyed! I’ma big fan of red too!

mrmopar said

Emily you are quite welcome. I hope you find the “happy spot” with that set. It is a beautiful that you should be proud to show when having others over for tea. Yes you will have to introduce them to "gong fu " style tea. They will love it when you prepare it for them.Not to mention you will impress them also.

Ya. I’d definitely show that thing around with pride. still want it. would just have to get used to smaller rounds of tea. I suppose thats preferable really when doing it over an hour or two anyway. 10-15 4oz teas seems like a bit much

Emily M said

mrmopar – It’s already gotten my little sister interested, which is almost impossible. It’s something we can bond over!
She learning to appreciate tea, and the smaller amounts work better for her right now.

yappychappy – Rest assured this one is going to be displayed!
Yes, it does seem a little more managable with the 5oz. I think I’d be a little tea’d out (is that even possible?) if I had to drink 10-15 4 oz teas in a couple of hours time!

Thanks again, to both of you!

Ya, I forgot I drink the 4 oz variety by myself over a day and when sharing it would be more over an hour or two and MUCH quicker. Think I may be in for the one posted.

Emily M said

That Buddha set is cute, too. I like the floral pattern. It seems they have a set with the pattern (or at least a similar pattern), but no Buddha. =(

The set is great too but i really just want the Buddha. I’d buy the set if it came with the buddha. But it doesn’t! And I want that thing. Like. Bad.

Emily M said

=( Maybe you can find a buddha like it somewhere else?

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mrmopar said

Thanks Sandy! This is a cool tea set!

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Dinosara said

The tea friend/idol you have is a very traditional Chinese Gold Toad that is good luck for your tea ceremony. I picked up one when I was in China for myself! You pour the waste water over the toad during the ceremony. Here’s a link with more info about them:

You just added something to my list of things I certainly need to have. Thanks!

Emily M said

Dinosara – Thanks for the link and for the info!
The Chinese Gold Toad – And here I was calling him Archibold…doesn’t seem so fitting. haha

I like the information they have for the mythological creatures. And the tea pets are very cute!

Emily M said

KiwiDelight – I know! Very helpful link. And I agree, they are cute! I want them all! haha

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Cute set! We have some general instructions for gaiwan use here: http://www.butikiteas.com/Gaiwan.html. The recommended brewing instructions can be ignored. We tend to recommend smaller amounts and longer steep times as an introduction to gaiwan use. My personal preference is anywhere from 3 seconds up to 30 seconds steeps depending on the tea.

My personal favorite tea for gaiwan use currently is Da Yu Ling.

Emily M said

That’s so funny you said that, because that’s exactly what I used in my gaiwan today! It was delicious. Just writing up the tasting notes now!
Thanks for the link and the info, Stacy!

Nice! Glad you enjoyed the Da Yu Ling Oolong! Mmmm, now I want some oolong. You’re welcome! :)

Emily M said

So do I, but if I have some now I’ll be brewing it all night and may never sleep! There’s always tomorrow…and the next day, etc. =)

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Uniquity said

I sort of wing it when I use my gaiwan but here are my thoughts. Also, beautiful set!!

1. I use a heaping teaspoon for many fuller leaf teas, It ends up taking up about 1/4 of my gaiwan. I am not sure how many ounces it holds, but I would guess 5. It’s medium sized :)
2. I typically do first steep for 30 seconds and then add 15 seconds to subsequent steeps. If the first steep isn’t flavourful enough then I just increase my time a bit more. Like I say, I wing it! :)
3. I increase the time, and occasionally the temp.
4. I push the cover back a bit (so it is at an angle but still covering the gaiwan) and hold that in place with my index finger, using my thumb and ring finger to hold the edges of the gaiwan. The lid keeps the leaves in but angling helps the water come out in a stream rather than going everywhere and burning me. I find I don’t have to worry about spilling (or getting burned!) with this method, though it did take practice. Verdant tea has a great video about using gaiwans. http://verdanttea.com/tv/how-to-use-a-gaiwan-what-is-a-gaiwan/
5. I don’t know. Mine doesn’t have a strainer which is why I need to use the lid to keep the leaves in.
6. Any rich unflavoured black or roasted oolong. Big Red Robe, Bailin Gongfu and Black Dragon Pearls from Teavivre as well as Laoshan Black from Verdant were all good. Clearly I prefer the darker teas. :) I also tend to prefer puerh in a gaiwan, not that I am a big fan of puerh yet.
7. I have a tea pet from Verdant as well, as I understand it you are to pour part of the tea over the pet so that it absorbs it and becomes more lustrous over time, like yixing. My poor tea pet could be put to a lot ore use, but I do love them (a pair of feet with small spiders on).

verdant has tea pets?

Uniquity said

I got mine a year or two back. They had them for a little while but I don’t think David stocked them again after that. They were very inexpensive at the time, hopefully he can get more.

Emily M said

Uniquity – Thanks for the input! You’re tea pet sounds really neat!

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sandra said

i use a yixing gaiwan, 90ml. one teaspoon tea (oolong), which is about 1/3 of the gaiwan. steeps are longer each time.
you have to put your indexfinger on the lid (nob) and then pour. seems more difficult than it actually is. love my gaiwan!

Emily M said

sandra – Thanks for your input. I’m loving mine as well! This thing is going to get some serious use! =)

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tealife said

isnt a 4 oz gaiwan traditional?

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