Tea and wine often share a lot similarities.
To a true wine expert, different wines need different wine glasses. For example, there are Champaign glass, Bordeaux glass, Burgundy glass, etc. The choice of wine glass is crucial for premium wines because the tool we use must match the characters of a wine. We certainly can’t get the best out of a $20,000 Romanée-Conti using a Champaign glass.
Tea is the same.
If you pay close attention to teawares, you’d notice that despite different designs and materials (click here to read our previous blog: Blog 51), most teawares have similar sizes. For example, a typical Gaiwan has a volume of 110ml to 150ml. Due to the size of Gaiwan, most other supporting teawares (such as sharing pots) match this volume as well.
In the long history of tea-drinking, the design of teawares constantly evolves to refine the tea-drinking experience.
That’s why Gaiwan generally have the same volume. In fact, most Gaiwan are separated into 2 groups: 5-gram Gaiwan (110ml/120ml) and 8-gram Gaiwan (150ml) (Chinese: 五克杯/Wu Ke Bei and 八克杯/Ba Ke Bei). 5-gram Gaiwan are commonly used for black tea and white tea, and 8-gram Gaiwan are for oolong tea because oolong tea leaves are larger and broader.
(There is also a claim that 110ml Gaiwan is the 8-gram Gaiwan. This claim is false. When calculating the volume of a Gaiwan, we use the maximum volume that a Gaiwan can hold, not the usable volume.)
Since the size of a Gaiwan is determined and the amount of tea for a serving is pre-packaged, the amount of water becomes the only variable. Adding too little water, tea would taste too strong; adding too much water, tea would taste too plain.
Normally, it’s okay to use a 8-gram Gaiwan for black/white tea or an oversized Gaiwan for oolong tea because we can always control how much water to add into Gaiwan and how much time to steep the tea.
However, using a 5-gram Gaiwan (110ml) for anything besides black tea and white tea can cause a lot trouble. For example, oolong teas have bigger leaves. Small Gaiwan don’t have enough space to let oolong tea leaves fully extend themselves. Tea leaves would cluster inside the cup, thus prevent water reaches the lower part of the leaves.
The result can be catastrophic. Because some leaves are over-steeped and some leaves are not entirely steeped, the tea soup you get has an unbalanced light taste and a hollow mouthfeel.
Of course, to many tea drinkers, having a dedicated set of teaware for every tea is not practical. As a tea producer, we always recommend that tea drinkers choose a 150ml (8-gram) porcelain/china Gaiwan as the primary teaware. You just can’t go wrong with this size and material.
Finally, we’d also to address again that teawares made of clay such as Yixing pots (purple clay pots/紫砂壶) are only ideal for dark teas such as Pu’er tea. Using clay pots, especially using the same pot for multiple teas, can potential destroy the flavor and the aroma of a very fine tea. (Please see our Blog 41 for more.)
We hope you enjoyed today’s blog. As always, if you have questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, tweet us @valleybrooktea or email the author directly at email@example.com. Please also follow us on Instagram @valleybrooktea and join our mail list to get our daily tea updates and our latest promotions!
* Why 5-gram or 8-gram are the most ideal sizes?
As we’ve mentioned before, tea leaves are still alive even after the tea-making. Tea leaves would suffocate and die if they’re submerged for too long. Using a 5-gram or 8-gram Gaiwan perfectly balances the time needed to infuse a tea and the amount of time tea leaves are kept in water.