One of the most exciting elements of being a loose leaf tea drinker is the beauty of the entire tea drinking experience. And if there’s any one thing that can enhance that aesthetic value, it’s teaware!
But what kind of teaware should you use? When should you use it? Should all loose leaf tea be prepared the same way?
Today, we’ll discuss what you need to make tea.
The Brewing Vessel
What is a brewing vessel? Well, that’s anything that you decide to use to prepare your loose leaf tea.
In the West, unless you’re immersed in your tea experience, the brewing vessel tends to be a simple stainless steel tea infuser. It’s certainly okay to use a tea infuser—after all, it’s pretty convenient—but it doesn’t really add to the value of your tea preparation ritual, at least in the way that the alternatives can.
If you’re brand new to loose leaf tea, the better choice between the two is the teapot. It doesn’t have the versatility of the gaiwan, but it makes up for that in its ease of use. It’s nice and easy: just add your tea leaves to your teapot, pour in the water, and pour out the tea!
The gaiwan—a Chinese word for “lidded bowl”—requires a little more agility and grace to use than a teapot. It’s often used by those who prefer to perform or imitate aspects of Chinese tea ceremony, known as “Gongfu Cha,” which is a beautiful and relaxing meditation ritual that centers around thoughtfully preparing tea.
The advantages that a gaiwan has over a teapot is that it allows you to more easily admire your tea leaves as they steep, opening up and releasing an intoxicating aroma. Cleaning your gaiwan is also far easier. It’s in using the gaiwan wherein practice makes perfect.
Both teapots and gaiwans range in both cost and materials. Mass-produced teaware made of less expensive material, such as glass, can be acquired for $20 or less, and although it lacks the distinctiveness and touch of hand-crafted goods, it makes for a great entry into the world of teaware.
Master-crafted artisan goods, however, can easily exceed more than $400, and for good reason. The raw materials are often very high-quality and dense, and the final product from start to finish can take 100s of man hours to create. They’re simply stunning, whether they go to use or serve as fine art centerpieces.
Whether you decide to try a low-risk, less expensive brewing vessel or make an investment into a work of art, what you decide will make a difference when it comes to your intended use. For example, unglazed clay—as one might find in a Yixing teapot—can become seasoned by the tea you use, absorbing some of the flavor. For this reason, you would not want to mix and match the different kinds of tea you prepare in a Yixing teapot.
Stay tuned for Part II on the next blog.