Teawares Can Make the Difference

Does it really matter if you steep your pu-erh in a gaiwan, Yixing teapot, tall glass, kyusu, or even a good old English Brown Betty teapot? How about those plump buds of Silver Needle tea? Will they taste the same if steeped in a fancy travel mug as they do in your gaiwan or other vessel? What about the drinking vessel? Some drink straight from the spout of the little Yixing teapot in which they steep, which is fine since they were originally designed for this (one reason they are so small). Others pour the tea into a cha hai and then small sipper cups (this assures that each cup has the same intensity of liquid but also prevents oversteeping). Still others use teacups or mugs. Does the tea taste different depending on which one you use? Well… maybe…



Da Yi Brand Porcelain Gaiwan 125ml

Tea Steepers

General recommendations, seen on a variety of sites, are as follows:

  • Chinese Black Teas — Yixing teapots (a separate one for each tea).
  • General black teas — some say to use a 2-cup or 4-cup porcelain teapot; some say to use a stoneware teapot or even the famous British Brown Betty (originally made of terracotta), but not metal or porcelain.
  • Smoked black teas — use a different one than you use for your non-smoked black teas.
  • Chinese Green Teas — Yixing teapots (a separate one for each tea), but some say porcelain and bone china are best due to the light flavor of many green teas.
  • General green teas — some say to use a small teapot, preferably Japanese or Chinese, or a gaiwan, while others state that the light taste of green tea is better suited to a porcelain teapot.
  • Traditional Japanese teas — most claim these are best when made in cast iron teapots called tetsubin which are aesthetically pleasing and well suited to the Japanese tea ceremony.
  • Oolong teas — aficionados say to use a small teapot, preferably Japanese or Chinese (Yixing), so the tea leaves completely fill the pot and can be steeped for a short time (this arrangement also means they can be re-steeped many times); some say porcelain and bone china are ideal since they don’t interfere with the lighter taste of these teas; gaiwans are also good.
  • Pu-erh teas — Yixing teapots are considered best, but also gaiwans.
  • White/yellow teas — gaiwans or small porcelain or ceramic teapots work best due to lower temperatures needed and so the vessel will not taint the tea’s flavor.
  • Darjeeling teas — porcelain and bone china are strongly recommended by some experts so the teas’ fruity characters come through.
  • Strong teas such as Ceylon, African, and Assam — pewter, cast iron, silver, and terracotta are recommended.
  • Any tea you want to watch steep — ideal for glass teapots, which not only let you see the action but don’t absorb the flavor of the tea the way that earthenware or metal teapots do.
  • Teas with longer steep times and higher water temperatures — copper teapots are usually recommended since they are highly durable and excellent heat conductors (look for ones lined with stainless steel instead of tin to ensure long-lasting functionality); delicate white, yellow, and green teas could get cooked instead of steeped in them, though.
Set of 2 Da Hong Pao Clay Cups by Wang Jian Ying

Tea Drinking Vessels

  • Aroma cups — tall, thin cups that allow the scent of the tea to funnel upward; the host pours tea into these cups, and then the guest savors the aroma of the tea and pours the tea into the drinking cup.
  • Gong fu teacups — basically any small handle-less cup that is the right size for a single gulp of tea; allows the tea to cool off quickly, important since hot tea is served almost continuously.
  • Mugs — some say mugs are for coffee and not suitable for tea since it is a delicate drink that requires delicate teacups, but some teas such as Assams are hearty enough for a mug.
  • Small handle-less teacups — used for oolong tea and big enough for one gulp; allow the tea to cool off quickly. Oolong tea is usually served continuously so as soon as you finish one cup your host will refill it.
  • Large handle-less cups — used for green tea.
  • Tea bowls — can be held in both hands; used for tea made during the Japanese tea ceremony.
  • Yunomi — for informal tea drinking; higher than wide and usually made of a ceramic material.
  • Gaiwan — a covered bowl used to brew and drink tea; most often used for green or white tea.
  • Western-style teacups — usually available in a cup and saucer set and having small handles grasped with the thumb and one or two fingers; made of porcelain, bone china, ceramic, glass, and even earthenware.

Seems like teawares can indeed make a difference. Have any special preferences? Share them with us here. And check out our selection of teawares on our store site.

About Janice and Stephen Shelton

Purveyors of Premium Teas
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One Response to Teawares Can Make the Difference

  1. Pingback: Revisiting Some of Our Articles on Teawares | Fine Tea Focus

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