Tea the Guyanese Way

Gaiwans: The Relaxing Beneficial Art of Brewing Tea




Enjoy Tea with Gaiwans


There’s something magical about brewing tea with a gaiwan.

The delicate porcelain cup, the precise movements required to pour hot water without scalding yourself, and the intricate dance of leaves and liquid as they steep together – all add to a sensory experience unlike any other.

If you’re new to the world of gaiwans, fear not! This guide will walk you through everything you need about this traditional Chinese brewing vessel.

From selecting the right size and material to mastering the art of pouring and sipping, we’ll cover it all so you can brew a perfect cup of tea every time.

So grab your favourite loose-leaf blend and get ready to discover the joys of gaiwan brewing!

The Origin and Meaning of Gaiwans:

A Brief History of Gaiwans
A Brief History of Gaiwans:

The term “gaiwan” translates to “lidded bowl” in Chinese. It consists of three essential parts: a bowl (called “wan”), a lid (“gai”), and sometimes a saucer or plate.

The lid contains heat and strains the leaves, while the bowl holds the tea leaves as they brew, allowing for full leaf expansion. The saucer makes the hot bowl easier to handle.

A Brief History of Gaiwans:

A Brief History of Gaiwans
A Brief History of Gaiwans

Gaiwans have a long history from the Ming Dynasty in China. During this period, the powdered tea leaves fell out of favour, and whole leaves began to be brewed instead.

The simple and efficient design of the Gaiwan emerged, offering an elegant alternative to teapots.

Traditionally, the gaiwan lid strained the leaves as the tea drinker sipped from the bowl. Still, nowadays, gaiwans are often used in the gong fu style of tea brewing.

Advantages of Using Gaiwans:

Advantages of Using Gaiwans
Advantages of Using Gaiwans:
  • Versatility: Gaiwans are perfect for tea drinkers who enjoy exploring various teas. The lid can be used as a filter, allowing complete control over the size of the opening and the speed of the pour.
  • The wide bowl provides ample room for the leaves to expand, making gaiwans suitable for brewing Camellia sinensis leaves.
  • Quality Testing: Gaiwans are the ideal vessel for testing the quality of tea leaves. The wide mouth of the brewing bowl offers a clear view of the steeping leaves, allowing for on-the-spot adjustments in brewing technique.
  • Tasting a new tea in a gaiwan accurately measures its flavour and quality before brewing it in an unglazed yixing pot.

How to Use a Gaiwan:

How to Use a Gaiwan
How to Use a Gaiwan:

Using a gaiwan may initially seem intimidating, but it becomes a rewarding and enjoyable experience with practice. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Holding the Gaiwan: There are several ways to hold a gaiwan, depending on personal preference and the thickness of the lip.
  2. The traditional method involves using the middle finger and thumb to hold the flared edge of the bowl, with the index finger steadying the lid.
  3. You can spread your fingers against the bottom of the saucer and place your thumb on the lid to avoid touching the hot bowl.

See the video below for more details on how to use a gaiwan:

How To Hold A Gaiwan & Pour Tea Without Making A Mess

Brewing Process: 

  1. Preheat the Gaiwan: Pour hot water into the Gaiwan, swish it around, and then discard the water. This preheats the gaiwan and ensures an optimal brewing temperature.
  2. Add Tea Leaves: Place the desired tea leaves into the gaiwan. The quantity depends on personal preference and the type of tea.
  3. Infuse with Water: Pour hot water into the gaiwan, covering the tea leaves completely. Allow the tea leaves to steep for the appropriate time according to the specific tea’s brewing instructions.
  4. Straining and Pouring: Holding the lid slightly ajar, use the lid’s edge as a filter to prevent tea leaves from entering the cup. Tilt the gaiwan towards the cup or pitcher and pour the tea through the opening created by the lid.
  5. Enjoying the Tea: Savor the aroma and flavour of the brewed tea. Gaiwans allow for multiple infusions, so you can re-infuse the leaves several times to fully appreciate the tea’s evolving flavours.

Choosing the Right Gaiwan:

When selecting a gaiwan, it is essential to consider its functional details and craftsmanship.

  • Look for a deep, defined seat in the plate to ensure stability.
  • Test the movement of the lid, ensuring it sits naturally off-kilter to create a small opening.
  • Additionally, the flared edge of the bowl should be thin for precise pouring without dribbling.
  • Investing in a quality gaiwan will enhance your tea brewing experience and durability.

Final Thoughts on Gaiwans

A Relaxing Way to Drink Tea

In conclusion, brewing tea with a Gaiwan is a fascinating art form and a mindful practice that can bring peace and relaxation to your day.

The process may seem intimidating initially, but it can become an enjoyable ritual with practice and patience.

Embrace the versatility of this traditional Chinese brewing method and experiment with different teas to discover new flavours and aromas.

Remember to take your time and savour each sip. By incorporating Gaiwans into your tea routine, you are opening yourself up to a whole new world of tea appreciation. Give it a try – you won’t be disappointed!

Happy brewing!


  1. Your Guide to Gongfu Brewing. (2022, September 8). The Teahouse Santa Fe. https://teahousesantafe.com/blogs/news-resources/your-guide-to-gongfu-brewing
  2. Gaiwan History and Usage. (2019, October 21). Essencha Tea. https://www.essenchatea.com/post/gaiwan
  3. Gaiwans. (n.d.). Red Blossom Tea Company. https://redblossomtea.com/pages/gaiwans
  4. How To Hold A Gaiwan & Pour Tea Without Making A Mess. (2021, May 16). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0sPgTTJNoc
  5. Gong Fu Brewing: Tea and Mindfulness | Firebelly Tea. (2023, April 6). Firebelly Tea. https://www.firebellytea.ca/blogs/all/gong-fu-brewing

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