In chatting online with various tea lovers, we come across some very strong views on topics related to tea. A recent one was the relative benefits of infusing teas in a gaiwan or a teapot. It’s a topic that has come up through the years, and one that will no doubt continue to come up for many years ahead. However, to aid in that discussion, we wanted to present five points of comparison between gaiwans and teapots.
Point 1: Pre-Infusion Enjoyment
Before you even attempt to infuse those tea leaves (or even if you’re getting ready to dunk that teabag into the hot water), stop a moment to enjoy their aroma, appearance, even their texture.
Point 2: Infusion Show Time
Some teas are best when they give you a show. Blooming teas (aka flowering teas), Longjing (Dragonwell), and any number of premium white and green teas made from whole leaves and/or buds put on quite a show. Some dance around so much it is called the “agony of the leaves” or the “joy of the leaves” (depending if you tend more toward the negative or the positive). Of course, it helps to use glass steep wares and or leave the lid off during infusion.
Point 3: Infusing to Best Results
Most teas are fine infused in either a teapot or a gaiwan. But some get better results when infused in one or the other vessel type. Which is which is often a matter of experimentation to see what yields the best flavors for you, but we did want to present some general guides based on our personal experiences.
Point 4: Pouring the Infusion
Tried and true gaiwan users swear that pouring from a gaiwan (a lidded bowl, although some are now made with pouring spouts) is even easier than pouring from a teapot. Dripping spouts or ones where the flow goes out everywhere can be a lot messier than a gaiwan. Teapots, though, have a big advantage: a handle – one that usually stays cool enough to touch and therefore hold onto for pouring ease.
Point 5: Re-Infusing the Tea Leaves
Another area where gaiwan faithfuls will swear that they win out over teapots is for infusing the tea leaves. We can’t argue with them here and in fact tend to agree for most white, green, yellow, and oolong teas. An exception might be made for black tea. The issue is heat inside the vessel. Gaiwans have wider openings and, even with the lid on while infusing, they let out more heat than a teapot does, generally speaking. Some will claim that black teas need that heat in the teapot to infuse fully. Delicate green and white teas and more lightly oxidized oolongs may get cooked if the infusion time in a teapot is not carefully controlled.
Whichever way you infuse those tea leaves, savor the results. Enjoy your tea in the way that is most comfortable for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment a little and see if you can detect differences in flavor profiles for the same tea infused in different ways.