What is a Gaiwan?
A gaiwan is a small container for infusing tea.
It is often called "covered cup".
It serves as a teapot. Gaiwans have been used in China since the Ching Dynasty (1644-1912).
A gaiwan has three parts: a bowl, a lid, and a saucer, and is usually small enough that all three parts can be picked up in one hand.
A gaiwan allows the tea drinker to re-infuse its leaves multiple times, so they are most often used for oolong, green, white, and puer teas (black teas are less likely to retain their flavor in subsequent steeps).
A gaiwan also allows for better slope control. Because the leaves float freely in the gaiwan, you can watch them twist and expand, releasing all their flavor.
The gaiwan makes you feel like you're driving the tea experience, not just along the ride.
It also allows you to contemplate it and take full advantage of its fragrances.
How to use your Gaiwan
Put the tea leaves in the bowl.
The amount varies depending on the density of the tea and the preference of the drinker.
As a general rule, you should use more than you would in a teapot and let it steep for less time.
All experimentation is encouraged.
Dip the leaves.
Add hot water to the bowl (temperature varies depending on the type of tea you are using).
Use the lid of your gaiwan to stir the leaves and watch in fascination as they swirl and swell.
Place then open the lid.
The first 3-4 infusions and awakenings should be quick.
When the soaking is complete, it can take as little as 10 seconds or even a few minutes, put the lid back on the bowl.
Tilt the lid so that it is slightly askew.
There should be an opening big enough for the water to flow through, but small enough to keep the leaves from escaping.
There are several ways to get your gaiwan back.
Experiment and find the method that feels natural to you.
Try using your thumb and middle finger to hold the rim of the bowl.
(Just hold the top to avoid burning your fingers.)
Then use your index finger or knuckle to hold the cover firmly in place.
It is acceptable to use both hands and lift your Gaiwan by the saucer.
Decant into a Gong Da Bei or cup.
Holding your gaiwan firmly, tilt it toward your drinking vessel.
Do it with confidence and the tea will spread smoothly.
It takes a bit of practice.
Do not train on a computer or an especially beloved pet.
Give your gaiwan a few firm taps to make sure all the liquid is out.
If there is any liquid left in your gaiwan, the tea will continue to steep and taste bitter.
Sip your tea happily knowing you look really cool.
When you're ready, add more hot water to your gaiwan and re-soak the leaves.
That's it, you're cool!