Ok, you've given up on the "tea ball" and are ready to take it to the next level. Welcome to brewing in a Gaiwan! This is for when you want to sit down with a friend and enjoy some time and tea together -- also, don't be afraid to brew this way at your desk, it's relaxing as you work.
A Gaiwan (Ch.) is a covered bowl of some sort that can be used to brew tea. Now, before I start, you must know that these recommendations are a starting point. It can and SHOULD be calibrated with your own experience. Each area has different water characteristics that affect the brewing and it's up to you to develop an intuition for when your tea is perfect. Tea brewing is something you can play with and actually work at as you get to know the dance between your local water, temperature, tealeaves and steep times. That's why in Chinese it's called Gongfu Brewing. "Gong" meaning practice - something you work to get good at, "Fu" meaning skill (In this case, the skill of tea brewing). What fun!
Mmmm. Here we're brewing Taiwanese Biluochun. It's an early Spring green tea made from small leaves. Nutty. Refreshing. Crisp. Fragrant. Delicious. Green teas are on the delicate side of the tea spectrum. This advice will work for most greens you may have in your treasure chest.
Enter the Gaiwan set. First of all, you can see the Gaiwan on the top-right. It's got a lid on it. The other pieces of a full set will include the reservoir (to the left of the Gaiwan), a tea filter, several small cups and a tea tray. You'll see how these come in to play as we move along.
Now first off, we need to warm our set. We don't want cold cups pulling down the temp of your teas do we? Pour some boiling water into your Gaiwan and let it sit for a few seconds.
Warm the rest of the set up by just pouring the hot water from your Gaiwan into the other pieces.
Fill your Gaiwan about half-way with your whole-leaf green tea. You'll get better at dry-leaf amounts with experience.
Here's a close up of our Sanxia sourced Taiwanese Biluochun. We call ours "Twisted Green" on our site because most normal people don't know what Biluochun is ;)
Now for the QUICK RINSE: Use water around the 175 deg. mark. If you don't have a Thermometer, no problem. Just pour two cups of water right off the boil into a glass container. Wait 5-6 minutes, then pour it onto the leaves. Discard it right back out after a second or two. That's what the tray is for. Do you see the holes?
The 1st Infusion: Fill up your Gaiwan with fresh hot water.
Cover your Gaiwan with the lid and wait 30-45 sec.
Strain it into your reservoir.
Now use the reservoir to pour into the cups. The advantage of a reservoir is that no overage of water will be left in the leaves to over-brew and become astringent.
Here's what it looks like after the first infusion.
Now it's time for round 2. Ding! Fill up your gaiwan. This time wait 45 sec. to 1:00. Pour it off into the reservoir. Enjoy. Keep doing this adding 15 sec. to each infusion and see how far you can take it!
Can you imaging the sages of Ancient China using a timer? Not likely. But beginners need timers to get into the game for sure until they know what they're dealing with.