The Gaiwan Method of Preparing Tea
Making tea using the gaiwan method is the simplest, quickest, and most widely used method in Taiwan and China. I like to use a gaiwan (or chung) for all types of tea. I make tea and then pour the brewed tea into a sharing pitcher or larger cup when on my own. Green tea is usually brewed without the lid so that the temperature stays lower and so that you can enjoy the appearence of the leaves.
The Useful Lid
The gaiwan -- literally, "lidded bowl," although it is really a lidded cup -- consists of three pieces: the base, the cup, and the lid. The lid is used to sieve the leaves away from the pouring or drinking edge. This method of preparing tea came about during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Although the strainer basket is more commonly used these days, we think you'll find the gaiwan a practical alternative that incorporates tradition while allowing for control and ease of use.
Making the Tea
When you are preparing tea using the gaiwan method, you can enjoy the varying aromas of the tea during the initial wash/rinse and infusion. After rinsing out the cup with hot water, rinse the leaves with a few drops of water before infusing all the leaves.
To infuse the leaves, pour water at the proper temperature (depends on the tea), and replace the lid. Let steep for a time period according to the type of tea. Check the aroma by lifting the lid, and pour the liquid into serving cups, using the lid placed at an angle over the cup to retain the leaves in the gaiwan. It's not unlike draining water from cooked pasta -- but with more delicate instruments.
When Frank prepared an oolong he had this to say: I used about 2 tablespoons of tea and added water at 205 F. The wash/rinse released an intense fragrance from the leaf that I could only describe as a cross between poached pear and fresh-baked bread. The first steep (about 5-10 seconds) yielded a wonderful cup of golden liquor, with a smooth, medium body, and roasty and nutty flavors.
Our Gaiwan Sets
Our gaiwan sets from China are decorated in a classic floral style and come in two colors: green, and yellow. We also have one in plain white. The sets include three smaller serving cups. With just a little practice, we think you'll enjoy the gaiwan method of preparing tea.
One-Minute Tea Tip, 2005