As much variations as there are within tea categories, it is the same with teaware. It is to no surprise that there is an ideal teapot or gaiwan for each type of tea there is. Many find these through experimenting on their own, while some knowledge is more widespread. However, in general there are a few things that are best to keep in mind when choosing the right teaware for a particular type of tea. Whether it's for gong fu or more casual tea drinking.
Choosing The Best Teaware Based On The Type Of Tea
We can divide white teas into two main categories: aged and non-aged.
Non-aged white teas are remarkably delicate and graceful. For this reason, we don’t recommend brewing them in thicker teapots that retain heat. Instead, go for a teapot or gaiwan with thinner walls. This way ensures that the tea leaves stay fresh, and we are left with a cup of the freshest and most floral white tea.
On the contrary, aged white teas will only benefit from thicker-walled teaware. A nice heat-retaining yixing is one of the best options for aged white teas, which will only heighten the tones of fallen leaves and sweet soy milk. For example, in a full-bodied Bai Mudan White Tea.
Green teas are exceptionally fresh and delicate. The processing method of green teas ensures that the finished product is as close to the raw tea leaf as can be. For this reason, we don't recommend using teapots that are good at retaining heat. And even better not to use porous unglazed teapots which easily absorb flavors and aromas. The best option is teaware made from porcelain or glass, and quick brews of light temperature to leave us with those delicate floral and grassy notes.
Taiwanese oolongs are known for their tightly-rolled shape. For this reason, it is crucial to allow them enough room to expand. Brewing and drinking a rolled oolong from a vessel that hasn’t allowed it to have adequate space to expand is equivalent to drinking slightly leaf flavored water. On the other hand, when the leaves have had enough room to expand, we are met with an exceptionally aromatic and flavorful brew. Sweet, floral, in some cases milky... these flavors seeping out and mingling is what we all look forward to. Both Zhisha Yixing Teapots and porcelain teaware work well with Taiwanese oolongs.
Yancha, or Rock Tea:
Yancha is known for its long and twirly tea leaves. These teas hailing from the Wuyi Mountains are roasted and semi-oxidized, meaning they can take on heat. For this reason, thick-walled teapots are an excellent option. When it comes to roasted oolongs, the porous qualities of unglazed teaware help mute some of the fire-y notes, while rounding and bringing out the hidden flavors of those multiple layers.
Chinese black teas, known as red teas, are loved for their decadent flavors — chocolate, malt, brown sugar, tobacco, pumpkin, and sweet potato. We don’t want these to get lost during the infusion. These teas also require a higher brewing temperature and do not loose up to a stronger brew. For this reason, thick-walled heat-retaining teapots and gaiwan are just right.
Note: some black teas, for example, Lapsang Souchong, have stronger aromas. Keep this in mind when opting for an unglazed teapot that might easily absorb the flavors of the tea. We don’t recommend using Yixing teaware for these types of black tea unless you are ready to dedicate it to the one tea type.
Hei Cha & Ripe Pu-erh:
Heicha and Shou Pu-erh are showcasing intense notes of earth, bark, and tobacco. When well-rounded and in balance, these qualities are the top attributes of the tea and what many tea enthusiasts savor. For this exact reason, porous teapots that can absorb any over-powering notes and nicely bring together all the flavors are the top choice.
Raw pu-erh, especially when it is younger, often posses somewhat pungent and astringent qualities. We don’t want to enhance these characteristics by trapping in heat and over-steeping the tea. On the other hand, we don't want to mute its beautiful high notes completely. Thus, it is best to choose a teapot with medium porosity and not so thick walls.
For raw pu-erh with a higher age count, a more heat retaining teapot is just right.
In conclusion, we would like to say that whichever way you choose to enjoy your teas is just fine. Whether you decide to use your favorite teapot for all the tea types or have a few different ones. These are only general guidelines for which kind of teaware would generally suit a particular tea type.
Your personal tea ritual is what you make it. Connect with the tea. Be grateful for the moment. And see what comes of it.
How To Make Loose Leaf Tea (Gong Fu Style)