A Primer on Tea Brewing Vessels

Posted on August 16, 2019 by Mountain Tea

Hello from Mountain Tea!

One of the most common questions we have is about what kind of teapots to use with our provided brewing instructions for the teas in our collection. So here’s a quick post on tea brewing equipment.  We have three common types of vessels, each for different purposes.

The most common here in the west: the teapot. Next, the gaiwan, used in Taiwan and across Asia as a tea ceremony or tea tasting vessel. And finally a tea infuser set, good for making a morning cup of tea quickly and without much fuss.

Our steeping instructions included at the bottom of each tea's product description are geared toward gaiwan brewing, since that is what we use to test for tea quality here in the office.

The teapot is good for making multiple cups of tea, usually for yourself and a guest or two.  It’s good for brewing tea that goes with a meal. The main benefits of using a tea pot is the quantity of tea.  Because you’re using more water, more leaf, and a longer brew time, the downsides are you wont get as many re-steeps out of using a tea pot.  Chinese-style tea pots made out of YiXing clay are said to deepen and add complexity to your tea the more you use it. This is because the clay material gradually “seasons” from previous steeps.

Next, the gaiwan.  This vessel was invented during the Ming dynasty of china.  It’s used most commonly for GongFu style tea ceremonies. A gaiwan is typically made out of good porcelain. There’s a bit of a learning curve when brewing with a gaiwan, it can be a bit tricky to pour out your tea without burning your fingers.  These vessels are designed to show off every facet of tea. You can smell the lid to get a good idea of the nose of the tea. The openness of the gaiwan itself lets you get a good look at the tea leaf as it brews. And the material of the gaiwan removes heat quickly from the liquid, preventing “leaf burn” which spoils the flavor of more delicate teas.  For gongfu ceremonies, you’re typically brewing tea for two, maybe three people. Each drinker gets about a shot glass of tea to sip on. The brewer will go through three or four of their best teas to showcase their collection to other tea enthusiasts. We use gaiwan to test our teas in office because it is the best method to discern fine details and subtle flavor notes.

And finally, the tea infuser set. It’s quick, easy to use, and easy to clean. It brews exactly one mug of tea in two batches. I typically brew my less expensive “daily drinkers” with my infuser set, although I have tried higher qualities and those work fine as well.  It can’t really bring out the best qualities of high end teas like the gaiwan can, but the key benefits to the infuser set is convenience, convenience, convenience. I think most tea enthusiasts would benefit from a personal infuser set like this one if they don’t already own one.

There you have three common types of tea steeping vessels. 

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