Brewing Tea With A Gaiwan

What on earth is Gaiwan?

Gaiwan is the Chinese word for a “bowl with a lid”. Gai means Lid, Wan means Bowl (see picture on the left). In the southern part of Mainland China and Hong Kong, it’s also called a JuZhong (Brewing Cup). Gaiwan is the 3 piece porcelain cup marked #1 in the gadget list below. Gaiwan is a common and casual article to serve tea. You can use larger Gaiwans to brew and then distribute to smaller cups like Kung Fu Tea brewing , you can smaller Gaiwans (or simply porcelain teacup) and drink directly from it. Check here for porcelain teacup brewing)

What classes of tea are appropriate for Gaiwan brewing?

ALL teas can be brewed with a Gaiwan. But since porcelain loses heat quickly, it’s especially appropriate for green tea which brews well in lower temperature.

What gadgets do I need?

Gaiwan Tea Tray
  1. 3 piece porcelain Gaiwan (must) – or it wouldn’t be called Gai wan brewing.
  2. Teacups (must) – of course, of course.
  3. Tea Tray (sort of a must) – quite a bit of spill and waste water is produced during the process. The tea tray holds the water. It’s for convenience but it’s a BIG convenience.
  4. Tea tools (optional) – in the tool set, there are tea shuffle, funnel, tongs, digger, tea needle. In this case only the shuffle and tongs are useful.
  5. Tea & A Pair of Hands (must) – not in the above PIC but you know it’s not possible without them.

How To Use Gaiwan to Brew Tea

This is pretty much like Kung Fu Cha except that we use a GaiWan instead of a teapot. Make sure you read Kung Fu brewing too because the basic concepts apply here as well. A large Gaiwan (6-7oz) is ok for the process too BUT 1) the size is hard to handle if you have to brew and pour, 2) 6-7oz is a little too large for Kung Fu Cha.

1. Set… Ready… and Go!

Gaiwan Step 1

2. Shuffle tea into a Gaiwan.

Gaiwan Step 2

3. Add water for the rinse round.

Gaiwan Step 3

4. Allow water to stay for a few seconds to wash the tea.

Gaiwan Step 4

5. Recycle – use rinse water to rinse teacups.

Gaiwan Step 5

6. Let’s take a break here and learn the trick to handle GaiWan (See PIC in step 5). Use thumb and middle finger to hold the rim of the GaiWan, index finger to press on the lid. Move lid slightly off center to create a small gap between the lid and the body of the GaiWan. The gap works like a filter, allowing tea to flow out but stopping tea leaves. Then we can use the GaiWan like a teapot. Ok, the break is over.

7. Wash teacups with tongs, or with bare hands if you got thick skin.

Gaiwan Step 7

8. Round 1 tea brewing starts.

Gaiwan Step 8

9. Doing the time… (check here for different brew time for different tea classes)… wait…

Gaiwan Step 9

10. … and wait…

Gaiwan Step 10

This is pretty much like Kung Fu Cha except that we use a GaiWan instead of a teapot. Make sure you read Kung Fu brewing too because the basic concepts apply here as well. A large Gaiwan (6-7oz) is ok for the process too BUT 1) the size is hard to handle if you have to brew and pour, 2) 6-7oz is a little too large for Kung Fu Cha.

11. Use GaiWan’s lid to push flowing tea leaves aside.

Gaiwan Step 1

12. Then use the GaiWan handling meth

Gaiwan Step 2

13. All ready, tea buddies. Enjoy. (tea in this PIC is too light to be seen under strong flash)

Gaiwan Step 3

14. Yum… Yum…

Gaiwan Step 4

15. Repeat step 8 – 14 for each infusion. Actual number of infusion depends on tea type, tea quality, brewing time, etc.

How To Handle A Large Gaiwan

Take a Gaiwan apart: lid, bowl (cup) and saucer.

How to hold a Gaiwan

Gaiwan was developed in the Ching (Qing) Dynasty (1644-1912) as an improvement from previous drinking cups. I feel cool every time I drink with a Gaiwan. Sometimes I even imagine I am an emperor when I have a Gaiwan in my hands. It’s more than just a porcelain cup, it’s hundreds of years’ of tea culture. Assume you are right handed. Put the Gaiwan in the center of your palm. Spread your fingers to support the bottom of the plate. Use your thumb to hold the rim of the cup. Have your right hand standing by for handling of the lid (see picture on the right).

How to drink from a Gaiwan

Two things you need to do constantly while drinking with a Gaiwan:

  1. To stir the tea and;
  2. To get into drinking position while keep the floating tea leaves out of the way.

For number 1, you don’t use a spoon for the job, you use the lid to stir. Hold the knob of the lid with your thumb and index finger. Dip the near side of the lid into the tea and you can push the floating tea leaves outwards. With the skillful use of the wrist, you can play around with the floating tea leaves with style.

For number 2, move the lid slightly off center to create a gap small enough to stop tea leaves from coming out of the Gaiwan. Bring the Gaiwan to your mouth with your left hand while your right hand is keeping the lid in position. Finally, it’s time to drink.If you are serving tea with a Gaiwan, remember to pass the Gaiwan with BOTH hands. Offering tea in a Gaiwan, or any other cups, with one hand is impolite.

We have done the hardware, now we can do the software – the brewing method – Gaiwan and glass brewing