Gaiwan is a tea tureen, consisted of a lid, a saucer and a bowl. It is known as the "three talent bowl" or "three talent cup" in Chinese. The lid stands for the haven, saucer for the earth and bowl for people, implied the meaning of heaven, earth and harmony. Tea saucer or tea pad is also named as "tea boat" in Chinese.
Gaiwan set has a unique shape and is made with exquisite craftsmanship. The top part is larger than the bottom. The lid is small, fitted inside the bowl rim that is not easy to slip off, and the saucer is used as the bottom support. It is designed to drink tea with lid on, leaving very small opening gap to filter out tea slowly, which is very pleasant. The saucer is designated to be held for stabilization and avoiding burn.
Gaiwan was originally a tea bowl that used alone as brewing pot directly served to guests after steep tea leaves and hot water into the bowl, or served with just filtered pure tea without leaves. Of course, it was used as the way tea pot did too.
Later, it is found that using Gaiwan as a tea pot also has its convenience. The tea leaves changing in the bowl can be appreciated directly, and the thickness of tea can also be easily controlled. It is more convenient to remove the impurities than using a tea pot. Therefore, Gaiwan has gradually evolved into a "brewing pot", acts as a combination of tea pot and tea cup.
Brewing with Gaiwan can be split into single use and group use, as using a small Gaiwan or a large Gaiwan. Available Gaiwan sizes in the market are from 80ml to 300ml, and most common sizes are from 120ml to 150ml.
Gaiwan was invented in Ming Dynasty(1368–1644 ), was once very popular in the middle age of Qing Dynasty(1644 to 1912). Nowadays, still in most areas where Han and Hui people live, there are customs of drinking tea specifically with Gaiwan. It is also very popular in some large and medium-sized cities in southwestern China, especially Chengdu. It has become a traditional tea-ware in local tea houses and other tea drinking places in Chengdu, Sichuan, Kunming, etc., and is generally used for treating guests. In southern area of Fujian, Gaiwan is often used to make tea as a tea pot. In the northern China area, it is more common to use as tea cup, directly brew and drink with Gaiwan.
Gaiwan was used for brewing flower tea and Tieguanyin tea in the past time, but there is no limit today. It can be used as a tea pot, or as a tea cup for tea. Gaiwan is specially recommended to use for brewing oolong tea. When tea experts reviewing the quality of a tea, they normally prefer to use Gaiwan to test, which is easy to see and judge.
The most common materials used to make the Gaiwan are porcelain, Yixing Clay, glass, etc., and the various hand-paint designed porcelain Gaiwans are more popular than others. According to the make and type, Gaiwans are divided into Ru ware (Ru Kiln) Gaiwan, Blue and White porcelain Gaiwan, Celadon ware Gaiwan, etc..
Making tea with Gaiwan has the advantages of being simple, easy to learn, none odor-absorbing, fast in heat conduction, practical, elegant and beautiful.
How to use Gaiwan
Lid, bowl and saucer should not be used separately; otherwise it is neither nice nor polite according to Chinese traditional manners. But it is fine when you taste alone.
When tea is ready to taste, after uncover the lid, appreciate and enjoy the aroma from both bottom of lid and the tea. Gently move aside the tea leaves with lid to make the thickness of the tea even. Place the lid back on the bowl and leave a gap that is large enough to drain the tea. Hold the lid and drink it directly.
For brewing a thicker tea, use the lid to gently push and turn the tea leaves rolling upside down. The more turning, the thicker tea to get, is a very wonderful design.