How to use a Gaiwan

A Gaiwan is a three part glass, clay or porcelain tea brewing cup comprising a bowl, saucer and lid. Gaiwans are amongst the oldest vessels for brewing Chinese Tea, dating back to around 1350. They are an excellent way of infusing delicately flavoured Oolongs such as Dan Congs and Dan Hong Pao, and Puerhs, as using the Gaiwan allows very close control of the steeping times and makes it easy to pour the tea quickly.


Use a small Gaiwan: 120 - 150ml is about right, smaller is too fiddly and bigger is too cumbersome, and fill it two thirds full with tea. Use freshly drawn filtered water to rinse the tea and discard the first infusion. This is the wash and is designed to clean and ‘wake up’ the leaves. Infusing times depend on the tea you are drinking but are typically short – as little as 10 - 15 seconds for the first infusions, lengthening slightly for subsequent brews.


To pour tea from a Gaiwan into a cup or jug, place the lid at a slight angle to the rim so that tea can flow out but not the leaves. Hold the Gaiwan using your thumb and middle finger to grip the rim and your index finger to hold on to the lid. Keep the Gaiwan well forward in your hand to avoid scalding your palm. Be sure to drain all tea liquor into cups or a pitcher after each infusion to avoid over-steeping the leaves. You can also drink cooler-brewed Green and White Teas directly from the Gaiwan.


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See Marshain’s excellent video guide: