A Tea Addict's Journal

New thoughts on gaiwan vs yixing

April 24, 2008 · 9 Comments

As many of you have probably noticed, I almost never use gaiwans anymore. In fact, last time I touched any of them was when I sold one of them in my teaware firesale. Before that…. I don’t remember when the last time I used a gaiwan was.

I’ve found that there’s really no good reason to use gaiwan when one can use a yixing. I used to think that it is better, for the purpose of testing a tea, to use a yixing rather than a gaiwan, because, so the thinking goes, the yixing might change the way the tea taste in a way that a gaiwan would not. So, gaiwan is thus more accurate as a way to assess a tea.

I think that is still true if and when I am trying to test out a larger number of teas all in one go using the same parameters, as in a multiple sample tasting using, say, 5 minutes brewing. However, I almost never do that. Instead, I brew them normally and form my opinions based on that. If that’s the case, why should I use a gaiwan? After all, if, say, I were making a purchase decision, ultimately after I do buy the tea, I’ll be using my yixing to make it anyway. It would be foolish to use a gaiwan to test it and then never use the gaiwan again to brew it for drinking. As anybody who has used multiple pots for the same tea would probably know, teas behave differently in different pots. Shouldn’t I be testing the tea based on how I would normally drink it, rather than how I never drink it?

Of course, the other thing is that one realizes that there are so many other variables involved, one thing (i.e. vessel) doesn’t really make that much of a difference. Once I saw past that…. I’ve never used a gaiwan since, basically.

Besides, using more teas in pots season them faster. That’s always a plus.

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9 responses so far ↓

  • Anonymous // April 24, 2008 at 11:43 am | Reply

    Green tea?
    White tea?

  • MarshalN // April 24, 2008 at 11:49 am | Reply

    I made some green tea yesterday in a rather large pot.

    I personally don’t see any problem with using a pot to make those teas. Then again, I rarely drink them.

  • lewperin // April 24, 2008 at 2:16 pm | Reply

    Besides, using more teas in pots season them faster. That’s always a plus.

    …but even an unseasoned zisha pot beats a gaiwan. Right?

  • shichangpu // April 24, 2008 at 3:25 pm | Reply

    funny–i’ve recently been converted to yixing, after going back and forth between gaiwan and yixing for some time. there have been occasions on which i’ve wondered about the loss of some of the lighter notes when using yixing.

    the thing that has finally swung me fully into the yixing fold: finally got some decent quality yixing ware. not high-end, not incredible, just decent. and it’s made me realize that all yixing is truly not the same–that the iffy ceramic pots i’d been using just weren’t doing the tea justice.

    i don’t know whether it’s the quality of the clay, or the workmanship, or some other property of the new ware, but it’s really transformed my experience. the quality truly does make a difference–which of course makes me want to go out and buy some really excellent yixing, just to see if it’s even that much better…

    (i would, however, still prefer to use a gaiwan than my previous yixing ware.)

  • Anonymous // April 24, 2008 at 9:02 pm | Reply

    Hmmm…. I won’t give up gaiwan simply because it’s an alternative to enjoy teas, especially green teas. Plus, they are cheaper and easier to acquire. And gainwans are also good for comparing teas in the same category. For example, if you got two puerhs (same type but different made for instance), and you want to see which one tastes better with the same parameter, it’s easier to use two identical gainwan sets to accomplish this task. It’s likely for most of us to get a pair of same gainwan, but not two exactly same zisha pots! Did I make my point? :o)

  • MarshalN // April 25, 2008 at 12:12 am | Reply

    Lew: I think Shichangpu is probably right — not all yixings are created the same

    Shichangpu: What were the pots that were inferior?

    Sherab: Yes, there is a time and place for gaiwan, mostly in testing multiple teas together. They’re definitely a beginner’s friend — I used gaiwan for, what, 6 or 7 happy years? I think I’ve gradually used it less and less over time. Since I don’t drink much greens or whites, it’s not much of a concern for me, but I actually brew greens in a pot too…

  • shichangpu // April 25, 2008 at 1:59 am | Reply

    the inferior pots were preliminary forays into yixingware, purchased on-line without knowing anything. quite inexpensive, and really not bad, but i got what i paid for…

  • Anonymous // April 25, 2008 at 3:27 am | Reply

    lz, gaiwan’s come into their own in the professional world, making and serving different teas to customers 100’s of times a day .. also convenient for a tea drinking traveler. john

  • Anonymous // September 2, 2008 at 2:33 am | Reply

    Have been thinking about it and why I keep a gaiwan on the table. It cleans up easily and allows me to try different teas – in particular greens and blacks – quickly. I don’t like to keep a lot of stuff on the table, so a range of 9 pots for different kinds of teas doesn’t appeal to me. A month after moving, I have a small, white, 5rmb gaiwan, a shu pu pot, and an old oolong/wuyi pot on the table. Just before coming to HK, I was searching for my newer oolong pot to use. All liquid gets transferred to a glass share pitcher before going into Olympic cups or wider ones if it’s puer.
    Our favourite Taiwanese pot trader has lovely big gaiwans that just feel right. Imitations abound but his are 20-30 years old and in good proportions. As tempted as I am to buy a few of these for guests, I can’t find anything to match what he has. ActionJ

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