Using a gaiwan can be very simple. The steps below may sound complicated but the time it takes to use a gaiwan is faster than brewing tea using the western method.
1. Warm the gaiwan and cups.
Simply add hot water to the gaiwan and tea cups. Let it sit for a moment and then dump out the water. In addition to warming the cups and gaiwan, this step also cleans the gaiwan and cups and removes any dust.
2. Add tea leaves to the gaiwan.
Once the tea leaves have been added, tap the side of the gaiwan to settle the leaves. Tapping the side of the gaiwan is optional; however, it is useful if the leaves aren't measured out or weighed. This will show how full the gaiwan truly is.
3. Rinse the tea leaves.
To rinse the tea leaves, simply add hot water in a continuous stream. Make sure the water is the same temperature that will be used to brew the tea. We find it best to pour the water slowly in a circular motion running down the inside walls of the gaiwan then moving inwards to the center of the gaiwan. Now pour the rinse water out of the gaiwan. To do this, take the lid of the gaiwan and push back any leaves near the edge. Then replace the lid and tilt it slightly. This will keep the leaves in the gaiwan but allow the rinse water to pour out. There are a number of ways to hold a gaiwan. There are two methods that are similar and often used. The first method of holding a gaiwan is to use the index finger of the dominant hand to hold the lid in place, while using the thumb on one side of the gaiwan and middle finger on the other side to hold the gaiwan in place (see below for pictures). Another method that is similar uses the same configuration but the index finger is curled under holding the lid in place. Once the gaiwan has been grasped firmly, pick it up from the saucer and pour out the rinse water. There are other methods of holding a gaiwan, but this is the method that we find to be most comfortable.
4. Brew the tea.
Please check each specific tea for recommended time, temperature, and amount of leaves used. The western style of brewing times and quantity of leaves may be used with a gaiwan or shorter steep times with a larger quantity of leaves may be used. Since each tea is different, it is difficult to generalize steep times and leaf quantities. We recommend playing with the leaf quantity and steep time. For shorter steep times, use more leaves and vice versa. Generally, it is recommended to use 3-5 grams of tea leaves for our larger gaiwans and 2-4 grams of tea leaves for our smaller gaiwans. Steep times generally range from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. For example, we recommend using 3 grams of Wen Shan Bao Zhong tea leaves in our smaller gaiwan and brewing them for 60 seconds for the first steep, and then add 10 seconds extra for each additional steep. This means that the first steep is 60 seconds, the second is 70 seconds, the third steep is 80 seconds and so on. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about steep times and leaf quantity.
5. Pour the tea.
Pour the tea into your cup or into a pitcher if you have a number of cups to fill. Use the same method to pour out your tea as discussed in the rinsing section.
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5.
Most teas may be steeped multiple times.