So what else do you need to know?
In general, you want to think carefully about the kind of tea you intend to prepare. Teapots or gaiwans crafted from heavier and denser raw materials, such as stone or clay, will retain heat better than those crafted from lighter raw materials, such as porcelain or glass. It’s not so much that one is “better” than the other, as it is that they are better suited for different kinds of tea.
You’ll do best if you keep in mind this one rule of thumb: the more sensitive the tea, the more sensitive the teaware.
In other words, when you prepare a more fragile, lighter tea—one brewed at lower temperatures, such as a green or white tea—you’ll want to reach for teaware that will allow the heat to disperse, cooling the tea a little more quickly. This helps amplify those delicate flavors that are distinctive of those kinds of tea.
On the other hand, when you are preparing something more highly oxidized, requiring longer infusion times or higher temperatures—such as oolong or black tea—you’ll want to reach for teaware that retains the heat better. The flavors in these teas tend to be at their best in hotter, warmer environments, and this teaware allows you to comfortably sip your tea while it remains nice and warm.
Finally, you’ll want to think about the shape of your tea relative to your teaware. If the tea you are making has leaves that are long and flat, then you’ll want to look for a teapot that gives these leaves the best opportunity to expand as they’re being infused. This means a shorter, wider teapot or gaiwan is the most appropriate. Conversely, when your tea leaves are heavier and tightly rolled, a taller and narrower teapot or gaiwan helps most.
Regardless of whether you choose to try a gaiwan or a teapot—or decide to stick with your trusty infuser—we hope you look at the relationship between your tea and teaware just a little differently now. There’s a harmony between the two that’s waiting to be discovered.