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Gong Fu Cha With A Gaiwan

Posted by Angelina Kurganska on

Many Gong Fu tea brewers divide into two categories: the ones who prefer to only use gaiwan; and the ones who stick with the trusty dusty teapot. Of course, there's also a third category — those who use both. We see ourselves as the third category.

We've also met people who only use teapots, but stemming from the belief that gaiwan are uncomfortable to use and simply a hassle. In this blog post, we would like to clear up this myth. After learning the ways of the gaiwan, you may even become a gaiwan person yourself!

When using the gaiwan some things which may be intimidating are the hot water temperature and the unusual way of gripping this tea vessel. Sure, using a teapot will usually ensure that your fingers don't get burned. However, if you follow the steps to properly using a gaiwan, the chances of burning yourself are just as minimal as with a teapot!




Read our previous post: The Ways of the Gaiwan

How To Use A Gaiwan

A gaiwan is a tea brewing vessel used mainly in Gong Fu for infusing tea leaves. A gaiwan consist of the bowl, lid, and saucer and is usually made of porcelain, glass, or clay.


  1. Heat up the gaiwan using hot water, rinse, and decant.
    Just like with all other brewing vessels, this step rinses the gaiwan from any dust and warms it up for receiving fresh tea leaves.

  2. Add the loose leaf tea.
    Since the gaiwan is already pre-heated, you will quickly sense the wonderful aroma of the tea leaves. Take a few seconds to fully appreciate all the different notes. They will change completely within seconds!

  3. Fill the gaiwan just below where the tea lid sits.
    Make sure not to overfill it — that's precisely what may burn your fingers!

  4. Decant.

  5. Repeat for all subsequent tea brews. 


how to use a gaiwan


How To Properly Hold A Gaiwan

Properly holding a gaiwan is crucial for a comfortable brewing experience, for getting accustomed to your gaiwan, and for not getting burned!

There are generally three ways to hold a gaiwan. 

Overhand Grip:

  1. Tilt the lid on a slight angle so that the tea can quickly pour out, but the tea leaves stay trapped.
  2. Grip the rim of the gaiwan with your thumb and middle finger while holding the lid with your index finger. Make sure that you are holding on to the rim, and not to the body of the gaiwan – it's hot! 
  3. Pour the tea.

Underhand Grip:

  1. Tilt the lid on a slight angle so that the tea can easily pour out, but the tea leaves stay trapped.
  2. Pick up the gaiwan itself with your non-dominant hand while placing your dominant hand's middle and ring fingers under the gaiwan.
  3. Hold the lid with the thumb of your dominant hand and remove the non-dominant hand altogether.
  4. Pour the tea. 


Using the Saucer:

  1. Tilt the lid on a slight angle so that the tea can easily pour out, but the tea leaves stay trapped.
  2. Hold the saucer with your thumb and the ring finger (with pinky assisting). 
  3. Hold the lid with the index finger
  4. Make sure that the opening between the lid and gaiwan is between your thumb and the index fingers.
  5. Pour the tea. 


Drinking From The Gaiwan

Initially, the gaiwan was used as a cup and a brewing vessel in one. The tea leaves were brewed in the gaiwan, then the tea was drunk. Similar to present-day grandpa style tea, but with a gaiwan!

To drink your tea directly from the gaiwan, follow the next steps:

  1. Pick up the whole gaiwan, including the saucer. Make sure it's sturdy and sitting in place before picking it up this way.
  2. Pick up the lid and use it to gently move the tea leaves away from you.
  3. Start drinking the tea while using the lid to hold the tea leaves in place. You can also remove the lid completely if you find this easier, and use your teeth to "filter" the tea leaves. 


porcelain gaiwan

Gaiwan For Beginners

If you are just venturing out into the broad world of gaiwan, follow some of our tips to choose the best gaiwan for you.

  • Choose a gaiwan of the right size for your hands.
    If you are choosing one at a tea shop, try holding it in your hands first. Take note of how it feels, making sure it's not too big or too small for your hands.

The standard size of a gaiwan is 110ml, which is roughly 3.8oz.


  • For beginners, it might be easier to handle porcelain gaiwan.
    While unglazed yixing are certainly appealing, they have a thicker body and are better at holding heat. They may be a little trickier to handle for inexperienced gaiwan users, with more chances of getting burned. Porcelain gaiwan tend to have thinner walls and cool down quicker. Another reason to get a porcelain one if you are a gaiwan beginner is for the versatility of brewing. Glazed gaiwan are perfect for brewing any type of tea, while yixing should only be used for one tea type.