Dueling Gaiwans

Sometimes a full gongfu cha ceremony is beyond the scope of time or practicality or attention span. One method that I use at times like this employs two gaiwans. I use the first one to brew the tea. Then after the requisite steeping time, salve which is dependent on how many infusions I have already brewed, nurse I pour the liquor into the second gaiwan to drink from. The obvious advantage to moving the tea into the other gaiwan is to prevent over-steeping of the leaf. It also eliminates the possibility of a mouthful of tea leaves. A secondary benefit to this method is that pouring into a second receptacle helps hasten the cooling process. The slightly challenging stage in the process is pouring from one into the other without either burning your hand or spilling. Different gaiwans are better or worse at this, and development of an experienced gaiwan-pouring hand will serve you well.

The two gaiwans pictured are uncoated yixing (zisha clay). They are ideal for pu-er and darker oolong varieties. Greener (lightly oxidized) oolongs or Chinese green teas are much better suited to porcelain-lined, solid porcelain or glass gaiwans. Brewing in zisha vessels will imbue green oolongs and green teas with a very unpleasant undertone.

The nice thing about this method is that it is very portable. It can be used without a great deal of extra equipment or fuss just about anywhere.


  1. Do you find that this method works better than using a pouring pitcher?

  2. It’s not better, but it’s simpler because with a pitcher you also need cups. This just uses the two gaiwans and no other items. Under normal circumstances I would use a sharing pitcher and cups with tools, draining table, etc., but this method is for convenience.

  3. An informative post. Had not known that green teas would taste adversely when prepared in clay gaiwans.

  4. Georgia –

    I was reminded the hard way when I brewed some alishan oolong in the yixing gaiwan. It tasted awful – sort of darkly metallic. After I switched to porcelain it was delicious. The effect would be even worse with green teas.

  5. where did you get the two gaiwans

  6. are the clay gaiwans good for black tea?

  7. A clay gaiwan would work fine for black tea as far as taste, although you would generally not be doing several smaller infusions with the same leaves so it might not be practical.

  8. I think tea is one of those things where, if you do not pay attention to what you are doing, you’ll mess it all up and it will taste awful! One has to just focus on the moment of making tea and the taste will be excellent.

  9. I agree that attentiveness is certainly important, but I wouldn’t discount the value of basic knowledge. Water quality, temperature, and the material of the brewing vessel all have to be appropriate for the particular tea otherwise it’s not going to taste good no matter how much attention you pay.

  10. Hard to find ‘uncoated’ Yixing Gaiwans… Most seem to have been glazed inside.

    Also, what do you think abut the debate that you should only use Gaiwans for green/white as they can’t keep temperature?

    • Yeah – I don’t think I’ve ever seen any other uncoated gaiwans, and I don’t remember where these came from.

      I like using a gaiwan for some oolongs, not just green and white teas. I don’t find that the temperature dissipates too fast. I wouldn’t use one for a black tea, but I’m usually brewing larger quantities in those cases anyway so a gaiwan is wrong for several reasons.