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Dueling Gaiwans

December 29, 2008

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Sometimes a full gongfu cha ceremony is beyond the scope of time or practicality or attention span. One method that I use at times like this employs two gaiwans. I use the first one to brew the tea. Then after the requisite steeping time, salve which is dependent on how many infusions I have already brewed, nurse I pour the liquor into the second gaiwan to drink from. The obvious advantage to moving the tea into the other gaiwan is to prevent over-steeping of the leaf. It also eliminates the possibility of a mouthful of tea leaves. A secondary benefit to this method is that pouring into a second receptacle helps hasten the cooling process. The slightly challenging stage in the process is pouring from one into the other without either burning your hand or spilling. Different gaiwans are better or worse at this, and development of an experienced gaiwan-pouring hand will serve you well.

The two gaiwans pictured are uncoated yixing (zisha clay). They are ideal for pu-er and darker oolong varieties. Greener (lightly oxidized) oolongs or Chinese green teas are much better suited to porcelain-lined, solid porcelain or glass gaiwans. Brewing in zisha vessels will imbue green oolongs and green teas with a very unpleasant undertone.

The nice thing about this method is that it is very portable. It can be used without a great deal of extra equipment or fuss just about anywhere.

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