Benefits of Gaiwan brewing?

So I just got a Gaiwan to brew tea in, and happily went home and used it. It offers a more fun, interactive, and (this may have just been psychological) more delicious form of brewing. My only question is, it seems that while it has all of those perks, it seems a lot more expensive. Here’s why:

I can brew some tea leaves in a regular pot 2-3 times, and get 2-3 POTS of tea out of that one batch of leaves.


I can brew some tea leaves in a small cup 5 times which adds up to a total of 1 pot tea.

Is there something I’m missing here? Or is gaiwan brewing a lot less cost-friendly?

7 Replies

Kind of depends on the tea really, but with a gaiwan you do use a bit more leaf. You do short steeps, some like 6 seconds, others 30 seconds (whatever you find tastes best or as per instructions) and build from there.
A good pu’er or oolong I can get 15 steepings vs. western brewing you might get 3 with the same tea. Greens and whites you might get 8 steepings or so. Overall, the gongfu brewing + good tea = more tea.

But also, with these short steepings you get to see the flavors change. Try making one tea in a gaiwan, and another with western brewing. It’s like the western one has all those notes blended together, while in the short steeps you see a progression.

mrmopar said

+1 on Awkward Soul’s post. Gong fu gives an entirely different taste and allows you to savor each minute flavor of the tea. I will usually brew a tea this way to see how it is before using a yixing or any other pot. As mentioned pu’er will give many infusions and flavor notes.

But wait, aren’t yixing pots normally used for gongfu brewing? In what scenarios do you definitely want to use a gaiwan over a yixing pot? (I know you’re supposed to use only one type of tea for each pot)

mrmopar said

I will usually brew the first taste of a tea in the gaiwan. I find the sometimes the yixing can “mute” the flavor of the tea as they absorb some of the tea. I would say that a yixing “seasoned” for a long time would enhance the tea. Sadly to say that mine still need a few more years of work before this occurs. But I am on the way to some good seasoned ones with this method. Gaiwan and the yixing, always the way I brew. I am starting the tasting notes with the Gaiwan and I do post some with the yixing if it’s a really good tea. I usually hit on the pu’er tea as that is the biggest category in my cupboard.

Uniquity said

A yixing is typically used for one specific tea but gaiwans tend to be porcelain so you can use them for any/every type of tea. I use a gaiwan for gongfu brewing as I can try any flavour I want want.

Yeah I know, when I said “pot” I meant a yixing pot, not a gaiwan :)

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Will said

I think you’re thinking about two different things – brewing style, and teaware. You can use a gaiwan (either a smaller or a larger one) to brew with a smaller or larger amount of tea, depending on your preferences and brewing style.

As far as why to use a gaiwan vs. a glazed porcelain pot, or other types of teaware, it’s easy to clean, you have good control over how the water hits the tea, good control over the speed of the pour, isn’t too fussy, and comes in a lot of different wall thicknesses, etc. Plus, you can drink directly out of it, or use it as a brewing vessel. And, as people alluded to above, a glazed porcelain gaiwan is more “neutral” than unglazed stoneware (however, other glazed porcelain teaware will have this same attribute).

So, really a matter of personal preference, but I find it to be a very useful brewing tool — I’ve got a ton of Yixing teapots (probably at least 40-50+), and still reach for a gaiwan more often than not.

I find a thin-walled gaiwan very useful for being able to use very hot water, but still avoid stewing certain types of teas, especially certain oolongs.

When brewing for myself at the office, I usually use a 60 ml gaiwan, and in that sense, I think it’s pretty cost-effective, however, I usually use a lot of tea leaf no matter what brewing vessel I use (usually, I can get many more than 5 infusions too). But really, unless the tea you’re drinking is extremely expensive, I wouldn’t worry about that too much. Find a smaller gaiwan, or use a little less leaf.

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