How to Brew Tea with a Gaiwan
If you want to taste the full range of flavors locked inside your leaf, resist the bitterness, and get your moneys worth - the Gaiwan is for you. Western mugs, over brewed and flooded with too much water, remove the subtleties otherwise present. Just like a Wine Glass is made to heighten the experience of your favor Red, and with Tea, you need the right tool for the job. This quick article will teach your in 4 easy steps how to Brew with a Gaiwan.
What is a Gaiwan?
Real quick before we brew, let's cover what a Gaiwan is: a lidded bowl. While there are many sizes, the standard Gaiwan can hold 110ml of liquid. A typical can of coke is 350ml, so a Gaiwan can't even hold 1/3 that amount!
Even more surprising than the small size of the Gaiwan is the amount of tea you place into it. For a Wu Long (Oolong) tea from the Wu Yi mountain in Fujian, you'd place in about 8g of tea - which visually - will fill the entire Gaiwan well above the brim.
This begs the question: why so much tea, and so little water? That's where the magic of the Gaiwan lies.
Water to Tea Ratio
With tea, each steep will bring out different flavors. By using more tea, and less water, we can distinctly taste the uniqueness of each steeping. More water, and less tea, these characteristics get blurred together.
After all, most meals taste better eaten without the use of a blender to homogenize everything into a grey-pink paste. This is why we do smaller and more steepings. Still, doing 9 independent steeping can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. That's why the 3x3 system exists.
Most of the brewing I do fall within the 3x3 brewing system. Basically, rather than doing 9 individual steeping, you can opt instead for a happy medium of by doing 3 steepings at a time, 3 times.
You'll still get the same number of steepings, but with this method you'll combine 3 of them at a time. You might lose some of the subtle of each individual brewing this way, but you'll end up with a clear beginning (first 3) steeping, middle (second 3) steeping, and final (last 3) steepings.
Each of the 3 steepings are poured in a container, usually a fairness picture (Gong Dao Bei) to be enjoyed from. Now, with the basics covered, let's brew!
How to Brew with a Gaiwan
The actual method to brewing with the Gaiwan, but just one word of warning:
It gets hot. If you feel a burn coming, don't suffer through it.
I've seen beginners try to tough through the pain of using a Gaiwan - super heated from multiple steepings of boiling water. But this is a mistake - there should be no pain at all. If you feel pain, it's because you're holding the Gaiwan wrong.
Here's the correct way to use the Gaiwan:
- Fill it with tea.
- Pour in hot water.
- Place the lid on, and wait 3 seconds. (Yes, that short!)
- Tilt the lid slightly to allow a gap between the lid and the bowl. Pick up, and strain.
Just a note on how to hold the Gaiwan when you strain it - as this is the most critical part. The idea is that you grab the sides of the Gaiwan with your thumb and middle finger, making sure that you're really only touching the very outer rim. If you grab too low on the rim, you're at risk to burn yourself.
Very little force is required, just a light touch.
Make sure that the gap you leave with the lid is big enough to let the tea effortless strain out in to your cup, but not enough to let the leaves slip through. This is a learned skill, and a few leaves in your cup won't spoil the taste, so no worries.
Watch for yourself
Sometimes it's just better to see for yourself rather than reading descriptions. No problem, we have a video here where you can see all the techniques we've talked about.