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Discovering The Traditional Gaiwan For Brewing Loose Leaf Tea

April 11, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 200

In the west teapots are the most commonly use vessels for brewing tea in however, as online tea shops selling loose leaf tea grow in popularity, many people are finding that a large western teapot might not be the best solution for them. While it may not seem like there are many alternatives - save for bagged tea or strainers - the gaiwan is actually one of the world's oldest and most commonly used methods for brewing loose leaf tea and increasingly available in western tea shops.

While a definitive date is unknown it is widely accepted that it was during the Ming Dynasty that the gaiwan, a lidded bowl used for brewing tea, was invented. The gaiwan has remained one of the key elements of any Chinese tea ceremony to this day and is considered by many tea aficionados as perhaps the most effective way to brew loose leaf tea.

Consisting of only three parts - a bowl, a lid and a saucer - gaiwans generally hold less water than a teapot however their smaller size makes them suitable to keep, and use, in places where you perhaps wouldn't normally want to have a teapot - such as by your desk at work.

The Bowl

Perhaps the most important element of the Gaiwan is the bowl. It is within the bowl that the loose leaf tea and hot water combine and infuse to produce the drink known as tea. Traditionally the bowl has been made from porcelain or Yixing, a red clay from the Jiangsu province of China although, many younger tea lovers are now selecting glass gaiwans that allow you to watch the whole leaf or flowering tea leaves unfold as it infuses and brews.

Whatever material the bowl is made from it should be thin and delicate enough to allow the tea to easily be poured while still maintaining good heat retaining properties. A gaiwan that is too thin will allow the water to cool too quickly and the loose leaf tea inside won't properly infuse. The modern heat proof glass that is used in many of today's glass gaiwans is perfect for this, hence the rise in its popularity and use.

The Lid

The gaiwan's lid serves two purposes, it helps retain the water's temperature and it also allows you to serve the tea without the leaves falling into the glass or mugs that the tea is being poured into. Once your tea has brewed, like with a teapot, you generally want to pour it into something else to drink. Unlike with a teapot however the gaiwan has no spout. You pour the tea by simply sliding the lid back slightly, and with your thumb holding the lid in place, tilt the gaiwan to pour out the tea.

The Saucer

Initially it seems like the saucer is only there for decoration however, it serves a far more serious purpose; the saucer allows you to pick up and pour the tea without touching the bowl. The thinner materials used in making gaiwans tend to get very hot - by sliding your fingers underneath the saucer and picking it up with your thumb on the lid you avoid touching the bowl and potentially burning your fingers!

As has been shown, gaiwans are incredibly simple vessels however, having been used for over 500 years now sometimes the old methods really are the best!

James Franklin Bluth is a tea connoisseur with over a decade's experience sourcing and selecting loose leaf tea and is especially interested in online tea shops.

He his favourite gaiwan came from driftwood tea's online tea shop.

Their most popular tea is their white tea which is regarded as some of the best and freshest Silver Needle Tea available online and is perfect for preparation in a gaiwan.

Source: EzineArticles
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