An Introduction To Gaiwan
The most common Gaiwan materials are porcelain and bone china because these materials are easy to clean and do not retain any taste or aroma. This means that any tea can be prepared in the same Gaiwan without fear of its residue of flavour and aroma interfering with the subsequent brewing of a completely different tea.
Ceramics can be manufactured completely by hand or in moulds and either method produces the required thin walls of the gaiwan bowl. Thin walls provide optimum heat dissipation. China has a long history of creating some of the world's most exquisite ceramics, some decorated by hand with beautiful landscapes or floral-inspired designs.
Glass is another good gaiwan material. It does not retain and dissipate heat quite as well as ceramics, but it is cost-effective and very easy to maintain. A glass gaiwan has the added benefit of being able to observe and appreciate the tea as it brews. Whether it is new spring season green tea, jasmine pearls or a Tie Guan Yin oolong, you can enjoy watching the leaves dance and unfurl.Zisha (purple clay) from Yixing is a popular material for tea ware, but not well suited to gaiwan bowls. It is very difficult to produce thin walls with this clay and you cannot achieve the same neutral white finish. Furthermore, due the porous nature of Zisha clay, you would need a different gaiwan for each type of tea to avoid flavour contamination.
To serve tea from a gaiwan requires practice. When the leaves have finished infusing, hold the lid of the gaiwan firmly onto the bowl, leaving a small gap at one edge. Keeping the hand in place, invert the bowl and tea should pour from the gap leaving the wet leaves behind in the bowl.
The gaiwan is not recognised or appreciated in the West, but in China it has been in common use since the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644). Preparing tea in this way is mindful and elegant.
Custom made Dehua porcelain Gaiwan Tea Set
Dehua is famous for it's cream-white ceramics. This wood-fired gongfu tea set has been custom-made for Wan Ling Tea House. The wood firing gives a much softer, velvety feel to the glaze. The ash from the burning wood in the kiln combines with the heat and glaze on the wares to create a subtle green hue around the edges of the wares.