What’s Right for You, the Gaiwan or the Teapot? – Meimei Fine Teas

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What’s Right for You, the Gaiwan or the Teapot?

What’s Right for You, the Gaiwan or the Teapot?

When you consider the various elements that contribute to the perfect cup of tea (space, porosity, thickness, convenience, shape, aesthetic), it quickly becomes clear that tea balls, tea bags, and stainless steel strainers just won’t do.

Yixing Tea Pot

The truth is that there have long been only two superior teawares — teawares that, when mastered, consistently produce outstanding tea, regardless of how much time one has available. These two teawares are the gaiwan and the teapot.

But perhaps you find yourself wondering if one of these is right for you, or maybe if one is really better than another?

The answer might surprise you: it depends.

The teapot has a few distinct features worth discussing.

One, personal teapots are traditionally of very small size, usually around 250mL or less. Unlike the large, oversized teapots found in the west, these diminutive sizes offer far greater flexibility. For instance, many people will commute with their petite teapots by carefully wrapping them in a cloth and placing them in a bag or pocket. This portability means that you can make your favorite tea virtually anywhere hot water can be found.

Two, Chinese teapots tend to be made of a porous clay, such as Yixing or Jian Shui. This porous quality helps the teapot absorb over time the flavors of the tea brewed in it. While this means you can only use one type of tea in your teapot, the benefit is that this produces a much better flavor as the teapot becomes progressively seasoned, similar to a good, old-fashioned cast-iron skillet.

Meimei Fine Teas Gaiwan gongfu tea

Lastly, the teapot has a much thicker body than the gaiwan, a body optimized for heat retention. With a handle usually affixed to its side, this feature enables you to comfortably brew teas that require hotter water temperatures for longer periods of time, such as oolongs, black teas, and some puerhs.

But what sorts of occasions and considerations might call for the gaiwan?

First, if you plan on brewing multiple kinds of tea, for example, then you’ll want to use a gaiwan instead. The porcelain body from which it is made will not absorb any flavors, and this means you don’t have to worry about contaminating your favorite tea with the taste of yesterday’s infusions.

Second, the thinner porcelain walls of the gaiwan disperse heat. Not only is this ideal for lighter teas that demand infusion at lower water temperatures or for shorter periods of time, but this also allows your tea to cool down more quickly so that it is ready to sip sooner.

Meimei Fine Teas Gaiwan

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that when you are finished with your tea, the gaiwan is far easier to clean than the teapot. Depending on the size of your teapot, it can become a little tricky to dispose of the leaves, sometimes getting caught in the strainer or right under the rim of the teapot. In stubborn cases, you may even need to find a small brush to probe the spout for hidden tea leaves.

With a gaiwan, however, disposing tea leaves could not be any easier — you simply turn your gaiwan over and gently shake, ending with a quick, light rinse.

Ultimately, when selecting your teaware, you have to try and think about what you’re going to be making or doing. You may want to use these guidelines to inform your decision:

Teapot

  • Convenient for travel
  • Suited for fuller-bodied teas
  • Perfect for high-temperature and long infusion times
  • Clay body enhances taste of a single type of tea.

Gaiwan

  • Very easy to clean
  • Suited for nearly any type of tea
  • Perfect for lower temperature or short infusion times
  • Porcelain body can be used for all types of tea

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