|Traditional Dragon & Phoenix Gaiwan|
How you steep your tea certainly makes a difference, and part of that “how” is the teaware you use for steeping. Gaiwans are one of the options available, and here are five reasons to use them to get the most from your fine teas (or even the cheaper ones).
1 Optimum Infusion of the Tea Leaves
No tiny, cramped infuser basket here. The leaves get to interact fully with the water. Essential to get every drop of flavor out of each leaf. Every day more products come on the market claiming to steep the perfect cup of tea using a tiny infuser basket. They say they have done dozens and even hundreds of taste tests to show that the flavor using their device is just as good as using a gaiwan. Of course, I have to ask then, “Why bother? Just stick with the gaiwan. Centuries of happy users can’t be wrong.”
2 A Size for Every Need
Whether you want to steep tea for yourself, a moment of pure enjoyment apart from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in a modern society, or whether you want to share that exquisite rare pu-erh you just pulled out of its secret storage place, size does matter. Smaller gaiwans of around 140 ml capacity are good for those quick (as short as 20 seconds or even as long as 3 minutes) individual infusions.
3 Easy Cleaning
The shape of the bowl, lid, and saucer all lend to easy access for cleaning out all tea leaf bits and pieces and assuring that the surface is clean and dry. The bowl will usually have an angled or round bottom and tapered sides for easy pouring of the liquid and removal of spent leaves. The saucer catches spills to keep your table or other surface from getting tea stains. The lid holds in heat for better steeping and again is shaped to clean easily.
4 Variety of Styles Available
Yes, aesthetics are important, and having a wide choice of styles available for your gaiwan purchase is a big help. You can go with simplicity by using a pure white porcelain gaiwan, for visual appeal with a glass gaiwan that let’s you see all the steeping action, or for a period appeal from ancient to modern. Symbolism is another possibility, such as the dragon and phoenix gaiwan shown here where the dragon symbolizes the emperor and the phoenix stands for the queen (from the days of such stations in life).
5 Being Part of a Line of Tradition
Perhaps best of all, using a gaiwan makes you part of a time continuum — not the kind that “Q” from Star Trek: Next Generation was supposed to be from, but the kind that is mental and emotional. You will be steeping tea the way it has been done by countless others in centuries preceding. As the tea steeps, you have a moment to reflect on who they were and really feel that connection.
You’ll probably find that a collection of gaiwans will serve well, with some being used for those special green teas, others for whites, and so on.