Firstly, what is a Gaiwan?
Essentially it’s a lidded tea bowl, however it's far more than the sum of its parts. First conceived in the Ming Dynasty it's perfect for infusing the most delicate and intricate teas. It's particularly suited to Oolong, due to the ability of the leaves to be infused multiple times with a high leaf-to-water ratio (sometimes more than six).
Leaf to Water ratio
The gaiwan works best with a high leaf-to-water ratio - about double what you’d do for a normal cup, between 4g and 6g.
Water Temperature & Wash
For rolled oolongs- they need softening before infusing. Use an inch of boiling water at 100°C (212°F) to “wash” the leaf for a few seconds - this opens out the rolled leaf and allows the water to penetrate (discard this “wash”).
Begin your infusions with water from the same kettle - you don’t need to reheat the water - the softened leaf will require lower temperatures.
Infuse for 10 - 30 seconds each time, draining the leaf completely.
All in all we recommend at least six infusions to allow the leaf to completely open out and reveal all its complexity.
For black, green and white teas, please infuse at the temperature specified on the product page (or slightly hotter) and far more rapidly. The higher leaf to water ratio means you need to be quick- just a few seconds. But with this method you can infuse the leaf repeatedly before it is exhausted - each infusion should reveal different flavour notes.
We’ve got our own Rare Tea Gaiwan set that comes with everything you need: a Gaiwan teapot and lid, a fine mesh tea strainer, a serving jug to decant the perfectly infused tea into, and six small tasting cups if you’re in the mood to share.
Here's a film we’ve made to show you how to use it:
There’s a great saying, told to us by one of our oldest and beloved farmers in Anxi, about oolong:
“The first infusion is for your enemy, the second for your servant, the third infusion is for your wife and the fourth is for your mistress. The fifth is for your business partner - because business is more important than pleasure, and the sixth you keep for yourself.”