From the Heart


In my last post I wrote about brewing my Dong Ding tea in a gaiwan.  Perhaps, some of you asked yourself – what in the world is a gaiwan? Well, it is one of my favorite brewing vessels. The gaiwan is a traditional tea ware used widely throughout China.  There are primarily two common ways that it is used, firstly as a lidded tea cup in which tea is brewed and drunk and secondly as a tea brewing vessel, from which the tea is then poured into a secondary drinking cup. It consists of just three parts, the lid, the cup and the saucer.


The Chinese embody their concept of the universe through the gaiwan.  The lid is heaven, trapping the vapors and spirit of the tea; the saucer is the earth, providing stability and the grounding of energy in the process; and the bowl is humanity with its desire for sensual experience – Man standing firmly and holding up Heaven.  I like the idea of that.


I enjoy using a gaiwan because of its understated elegance and simplicity.  It offers a uniquely uncomplicated way of following a tea through the brewing process, from the initial unfurling of the leaves to multiple infusions.  Unlike a teapot, a gaiwan is used to make several small steeps rather than one large one.  This allows each steep to bring out the complexities of the tea leaves, creating a new experience in every cup.   Part of the fun of using a gaiwan is appreciating the different tastes, colors and aromas in each individual steeping.  I also appreciate the purity of the white porcelain and its ability to reveal every detail of a tea.

A tricky business…

But, learning to use a gaiwan is tricky business – it is a one – handed operation and requires a bit of dexterity to become comfortable using it.  Pouring tea from a gaiwan needs practice as your hand needs to balance the cover correctly, so you only pour tea, while preventing the tea leaves from being poured out as well.  One thing I learned very quickly was, it’s best not to fill it to the absolute top with water so when you go to pour the lip isn’t scalding hot.

Tea brings peace, comfort and quiet.  It shares its gifts with anyone who imbibes. But, if tea is going to speak to you, if tea is going to enter your heart and change your life, it will do so matter how it is packaged, processed or presented. Nor, does it matter where it is from, how old it is, or how it is brewed.  BUT, for me using a gaiwan, is a sensory joy.  The simple act of appreciating the preparation of the tea – a show of conscious and caring hospitably, especially when shared with others.  It allows time for contemplation and appreciation.  It is the perfect receptacle for expressing the warmth and sociability of sharing a cup of tea.


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