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Using a Gaiwan

What is a Gaiwan?

A gaiwan is a small vessel for brewing tea that takes the place of a teapot. Gaiwans have been used in China since the Ming Dynasty and consist of three parts: a bowl, lid, and saucer. It is typically small enough that all three parts can be picked up in one hand.

Benefits of a Gaiwan
Though a gaiwan can be used in many ways, its best used as a way to concentrate the flavors and aromas of the tea and deliver them in a series of steeps. It allows for greater control and observation of how the leaves behave and change over time.

Watch this short video about how to use a gaiwan!

How to Use Your Gaiwan

Put the tea leaves in the bowl. The amount will depend on the tea and personal preference, but 6 grams is a good place to start. 

Gaiwan process 2

Steep the leaves. Add hot water to the bowl. In most cases, we recommend using boiling water, but that’s up to the individual. Return the lid to the bowl.

Gaiwan process 3

Crack the lid. Steep the tea for approximately 20-30 seconds (longer for later steeps). When the steeping is done, tilt the lid so it is slightly askew. There should be an opening big enough for water to flow out, but small enough to keep the leaves from escaping.

Gaiwan process 4


Hold the GaiwanThere are several ways to pick up your gaiwan. Experiment and find the method that feels natural for you. Try using your thumb and middle finger to hold the rim of the bowl. (Hold just the very top to prevent scalding fingers.) Then use your index finger, or index knuckle, to hold the lid firmly in place. 

Gaiwan process 5

Decant: Holding your gaiwan firmly, tilt it toward your pitcher/cup. Do this with confidence and the tea will pour smoothly. It takes a little practice. Be sure that all the liquid is out otherwise the tea will continue to steep.  Pouring through a filter will help catch any leaf particulate that escapes. 

Re-steep the same leaves 5-6 times, increasing the time with each subsequent steep.

Tags: Tea Geek


  • Posted by australianteamasters on

    A great explanation on how to use a gaiwan. Many people are at first a little confused about how they should be holding it, especially in order to avoid scalding themselves. Used properly they certainly do provide a superior brew.

  • Posted by Payton Swick on
    Do this with confidence and the tea will pour out smoothly.

    This. I find that a lot of new gaiwan users hesitate and the tea goes everywhere. Very well written.

  • Posted by Megan on
    Thank you for the fun to read information! I’m looking forward to trying this, as I had always been curious …

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