Friday, July 11, 2014

My Gaiwan

My gaiwan with a mug for size reference
Teavivre Description:
This gongfu gaiwan is custom made by TeaVivre’s careful selection. The gaiwan looks exquisite, is comfortable to hold. It is well made, pour our water smoothly. The white color is elegant. The lid is printed with TeaVivre logo. On the body of the gaiwan, there is a representative icon of Chinese tea ceramany, (cha dao).

Capacity: 90ml / 3.04oz

This beautiful gaiwan was a gift from the awesome Teavivre team. Thanks!

My Review:
Things may be a little different today. I am going a lot more picture heavy with this post. I received this beautiful gaiwan some time ago from Teavivre and have never given it a proper review. Until very recently I have been content simply brewing all my teas in my clear glass Bodum French Press. It works super well for all types of tea. Why use anything else?

Well, one day I saw a really inexpensive Yixing teapot online and thought I'd have some fun. At the same time I ordered a clear glass teapot for flowering teas. Having never been a teapot person, I really didn't see the need, but proceeded to order anyway. Making this long story shorter - I got hooked. My press still gets a work out but not nearly as much as before the teapots arrived.

Adding Leaf
So now I am starting to bring the gaiwan into the rotation. I'll be honest, the reason I have not devoted more time to it already is my sweetener addiction. This gaiwan holds 90 ml, that is around 3 ounces - that and sweetener do not mix easily.

So the secret to using it is finding teas that I don't feel the need to sweeten. Now that I am getting into enjoying teapots and alternate brewing styles, the time is right.

For today's session I chose In Nature's White Moon Tea. The leaf looks like Bai Mu Dan (White Peony) but it is slightly oxidized (like White Monkey) under moonlight. Then it is post fermented like puerh - technically like a dark tea as this is not from the puerh area in China.

I used a very healthy scoop of leaf  that filled the gaiwan about a third of the way. It was slightly more than I would typically use with my press. My normal cup size generally runs about 10-12 oz. So here I am using around 1/4 the water per steep. As a point of reference a standard bathroom Dixie Cup comes in two sizes - 5 and 3 oz. We in the west are so used to supersizing everything. Truth is 3 oz is still a lot of liquid.

Check out how nice the leaf looks in the gaiwan.

White Moon Leaf

Some people drink from the gaiwan. Not me. I can't sip anything that is near boiling. I choose to pour into a cup (a pitcher should be used when sharing). Today I am using a very pretty little cup and saucer my wife bought for me at a local antique store. I know nothing about it other than it says Japan on the bottom and it holds 90 ml, or 3 oz. A perfect match. The reflections make it hard to see but the designs are all jade green with gold trim.

Pretty Little Cup From My Wife
The inside of the cup looks like a pearl with its various streaked tones of color. Once the tea had steeped for about 20 seconds, I poured it into the cup. With the shape of the inside and the pearlized finish, the resulting brew resembled a sunflower bloom. At least I thought so.

The Brew Looks Like A Sunflower Bloom
A word about pouring a gaiwan. What I read online said to grasp the rim with the thumb and middle finger while holding the top of the lid with the first finger. The lid is slightly lifted to pour while not allowing the leaf to get in the cup. The saucer stays on the table. Yep, that's the way most people do it. I get burned doing it this way. I found it easier to place my pinky, middle, and ring finger under the saucer and hold the lid with my thumb. The gaiwan gets very hot, very fast. So be careful. 

The wet leaf plumps up beautifully in the gaiwan. I have not tried oolong in my gaiwan yet, but I have seen pictures of the gaiwan being completely filled with huge leaves after they have unfurled.

The Wet Leaf
So now comes the big question - does using a gaiwan make the tea taste any different? Absolutely. Using a more leaf to water ratio and extremely short steeps, intensifies the flavors. The layers of flavor are released slowly so each cup tastes different. In my previous review of this tea, I noted how it tasted like white tea but more intense. The tea for that review was prepared in my press and poured into a 12 oz mug. Using the gaiwan the flavor of the early cup is apple wine, and that is with out any sweetener. With the gaiwan, a quality tea should resteep many times. Yep, I think I'm going to like brewing with this gaiwan.

If using a gaiwan sounds like something you would like to try, you can find one like mine at Teavivre.

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