Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Top Gaiwan - the best gaiwan brewer

Forget Top Gun Maverick. This summer, the real action for people who don't fear getting their fingers burnt is the Top Gaiwan competition among Teaparker's tea students! This is the opportunity to get re-accustomed to a simple, but fierce tool: the gaiwan.

This accessory consists of 3 parts: a lid, a bowl and a stand. Gaiwan means covered bowl in Chinese (you may also use the name gaibei, covered cup). This tea vessel dates back to the Tang dynasty (even if back then it wasn't used like now). In the Tang dynasty, the stand was often made in metal, a diiferent material than the other 2 parts. Later, during Mongol and Ming dynasties, some gaiwan were made of jade!

Since porcelain is neutral to the aromas of the teas, a porcelain gaiwan can be used with all types of tea. You may need 12 teapots to rule the 6 types of tea (white, yellow, green, Oolong, red and black), but only 1 gaiwan to rule them all!! A gaiwan is a tool for beginners and experts alike. 

There are 2 important tricks to brew tea with a gaiwan: 

1. Preheat the gaiwan well, including its lid.

2. Pour your boiling water until above the lid so there's a seal and so that you may see the color of the brew changing. Check this video to see me brew with my ivory white gaiwan.

The gaiwan is also an excellent tool to understand tea, because it's more difficult to brew well with a gaiwan than with an Yixing teapot. The heat dissipates faster in porcelain than in clay, so the warming of the vessel is more important. One can also better see the leaves and where one pours the boiling water. You get a better understanding on how the leaves open and unfurl in a gaiwan than in a teapot. A good brew is one where all the leaves open up harmoniously and occupy all the space of the gaiwan. It's very easy to see if you did well or not. I remember that I only used a gaiwan for over a year when I started taking my tea classes. I made quick progress and this motivated me to learn and practice often!

Now, preparing for this contest, I'm practicing with a gaiwan and I feel like a beginner again! I brew every day and sometimes several teas in one day. The contest is also creating an additional motivation to be focused and pay attention during the whole brewing process. Stage 1 of the contest happened 3 days ago and I probably qualified for the final round on August 20th. It will be a tougher contest then. For the preliminary round, the brewer brought the tea he wanted (and which he had practiced well). For the final round, all the contestants will brew a tea chosen by Teaparker. And he's probably going to choose a tea that is difficult to brew!

Don't wish me luck, but a pleasant practice with great teas! A good cup is always a reward in itself. This is what should motivate you to learn and practice, so that you can express the character of the leaves with your brewing!

High mountain red tea from Alishan
Here are the best quotes from Top Gaiwan for those who've seen both movies:

- Remember, boys, no points for second place,

- Yes, I know the finger (hurts).

- (The greatest tea secret), it's classified. I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.

- You don't have time to think. If you think, your tea is dead.

- It's not the gaiwan, it's the brewer.

- You told me not to think.

- It's time to let go.

No comments: