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Do you use a GAIWAN (lidded bowl) for tea brewing? I'd love some help!

Tracy, the wonderfully helpful and knowlegeable tea associate at Teance (Berkeley, CA) has advised me to brew in a GAIWAN for best results. I have ordered one, but I am clueless (head dropping in shame)!

Of course, I have googled "gaiwan" and found many sources of information, but nothing comes close to hearing from a tea-Hound...what are your tips for using a gaiwan?

Thanks for sharing any of your experiences with this tea brewing device.

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  1. What was the reason they gave for using a gaiwan, versus any other type of implement to brew in?

    I have never tried one, but i'm partial to Japanese tea accutraments myself.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Honeychan

      Hi, Honeychan! It's always nice to know there is someone out there listening to cries for help!

      While I know the tea brewer has many options available, all which offer slightly different results -- some detectable and some not, perhaps, depending on the palate -- my current method of choice has been a heavy plastic device that I brew in and then place over a mug to dispense. I have been faithfully ordering high-end teas from Teance for many months, and one of the teas was not particularly satisfying. The tea advisor at Teance suggested that for an optimal sensory experience, I try brewing with the gaiwan. She believes that this method will best take advantage of all sensory aspects of a fine tea. Although I follow all suggested temp/time/rinsing "rules" for brewing in my plastic apparatus, maybe my method is subtly inferior.

      This is the tea brewing "pot" that I use: http://www.gongfu-tea.com/sunshop/ind...

      Honeychan, what Japanese tea equipment do you use? What are your preferred teas? Where do you buy them?

    2. Liu, when I was first introduced to gaiwan I was in China. I was skeptical as I'm partial to using a small purple clay tea pot. Most of the gaiwan I've seen there were NOT purple clay, but either porcelain or ceramic. I'm not sure what kind of gaiwan you have ordered?

      If you already know how to use a kung fu tea pot, there isn't much difference really. You do the same rinsing and warming of the tea cups & vessels.

      It's just that you might need to find the best way to handle the gaiwan when you pour as there will be no handle to hang on to, and you're have to use your thumb and third finger on the rim of the gaiwan, with your index finger place lightly but with enough pressure over the knob of the lid to keep it down. Lightly because it will get hot and you don't want to burn yourself. This will depend a lot on how the gaiwan is designed, too, so you may or may not have much to get used to. In general, look for one that has a nice lip around the edge so that the contact area that your finger to the surface is very small.

      The one thing that's different is in the way you use the lid to manage the tea leaves and the bubbles, or powdery stuff that floats to the top (if any). Most of the gaiwan is just a cup and a lid, WITHOUT a strainer, and so you have to use the lid to keep the leaves from flowing out with the liquid. Of course, people often choose to pour it into a strainer that's set over a tea vessel (a step I don't like as i prefer the sediments in my tea), and then pour from that tea vessel into individual cups so that you get a nice and clear liquid. Personally I think if the tea is of good quality, you wouldn't get much that needs to be strained and filter, and plus what little is there, will only add to the flavor.

      Usually i use gaiwan when I don't want to have to dig into my tea pot to clean out the leaves (in an office or some place outside of my house), also when I don't want the particular tea oil to get mixed up in my tea pot: eitherthe light Japanese green tea, or the dark Puer (believe it or not, I had started on the puer experience!).

      While in Taiwan I found a really great "Gaiwan" that's the perfect, best of both world design: it's made of purple clay; it's of three pieces: a lid, a cup that nestles within the vessle when put away; it has the straining holes build into the lid; the vessle has a pouring spout shape build in; the lid fits perfectly over the cup, as well as over the vessel since there's a slight inner ledge on the vessel.

      Maybe I'll post a picture later. Enjoy your new tea adventure!

      6 Replies
      1. re: HLing

        HLing, I am so glad to hear from you on this, my newest tea adventure!
        Thanks for all your expert advice. You have also expanded my shopping, as I did not know that I had so many choices. Teance has offered to send me a simple ceramic gaiwan (their choice and a good price). I will practice your suggested technique, and then in time, perhaps, I will shop for something "better." I would love to see a picture of the gaiwan you found in Taiwan, and then I can scour the internet for something similar or appropriate to my modest skill and dexterity level.

        And once again, you have been extremely helpful with your information...thanks!

        1. re: liu

          Liu, here's a link to the pictures of my Gaiwan.

          Cheapertrick, nice to hear your thoughts on Gaiwan. I agree on not using teapots with infuser baskets, although I couldn't articulate the reasons, just that it doesn't taste good....

          1. re: HLing

            Oh, that is quite a beautiful and complete set! I can see why you treasure it so.
            By the way, did you just put that photo gallery together for this post? I am impressed!!! But I do so appreciate having seen it...something to aspire toward!

            1. re: liu

              OK, now I feel a bit guilty for putting up an unusual picture of a Gaiwan. Comestible is right that my brown Gaiwan is a bit heavy. That is because I am from the old school before Gaiwan became popular, and so I look for something different in a Gaiwan.

              Since Foodwich mentioned seeing pictures here, I figure I'd better put up a picutre of a more common Gaiwan next to the brown one, just for the record.

              1. re: HLing

                Yes, I am using one like the one on the left...but yours looks so perfect!
                I find that the smaller one is just too small. I know the advantages of brewing small quantities at a time, but I like to brew about 16 ounces and then carry my cup around for an hour or so.

                1. re: liu

                  Liu, if you really want to brew about 16 oz. at one go, then your best bet may not be a gaiwan. My largest gaiwan is about 7 oz., and I haven't seen any bigger than that. For larger quantities, I have a 12-oz. Chinese glazed teapot (still not big by English standards). But unlike a gaiwan, it wouldn't be useful for multiple steeps unless you can drink 10 oz. times 3 or 4 (in which case it is just as good), or just use less loose tea and plan on making only one infusion.

      2. A proper gaiwan offers many advantages that a teapot won't. For one the small size and shape are very good for delicate green teas although they work well for just about any style of whole leaf tea. The thin walls also help. These factors insure the leaves are not in the very center where the water is hottest. When using one you will notice the leaves either float or sink to bottom. They don't come in contact with hottest water in the center of the gaiwan. The water will cool while the tea steeps insuring a good sweet flavor. Too much hot water won't cool properly and will extract too much caffeine and the other polyphenols that make tea bitter. I personally never use teapots larger than 10 oz or with infuser baskets.

        They are also about the same size and made of porcelain like the cupping sets pros use to taste teas. This is not a coincidence. Silicon based materials such as porcelain and glass are very good for proper tea extraction.

        The lid can be used to agitate the leaves and the water. This can be used to cool the water as the tea steeps and insure that the leaves are properly soaked.

        My advice is don't use them for Japanese teas. They are usually machine picked and the tiny particles that machine picking creates won't strain properly. For Japanese teas I prefer Tokoname wares or glass pots with fine mesh strainers in the spouts.

        Always warm the gaiwan with hot water before each use. The cold porcelain will cool your water too quickly. A warm gaiwan is a happy gaiwan.

        Always leave a bit of room near the top. When the tea is steeping this will insure that steam and heat has a place to go.

        The better quality and fresher your leaf is, the more effective your gaiwan will be. Lower grades or older teas tend to be dusty and won't strain properly.

        Good luck!

        1 Reply
        1. re: cheapertrick

          cheapertrick - Thank you for all the details...and very helpful explanation.
          The tea advisor at Teance also advised brewing in small quantities, information you have also confirmed.
          I will read and reread your post; know that I do so appreciate your help!

        2. One tiny thing to add to all the detailed info here -- after you've brewed your tea, have a sniff of the underside of the lid -- it catches the aroma of the tea during the brewing process.

          4 Replies
          1. re: limster

            LImster! Good point! I never knew you were into tea, or else we would have stopped in at Luh Yu tea emporium when you were here with Melanie Wong last time....In fact, I sometime wondered how Melanie as a Wine Wizard would taste the different oolong teas....

            1. re: HLing

              Well, I dabble a little, but I do try to appreciate good tea when opportunity presents itself. :) I'm sure a range of oolongs, or even a Pu-Erh vertical would have been fun to to taste with you and Melanie.

            2. re: limster

              Thanks, limster...a very important point you have added --
              Aaaaah, YES! For me, the heavenly aroma is at least half of the tea experience!

              The tea advisor from Teance did mention this as well. Her point was that using a gaiwan offers the tea drinker the most sensory pleasures...and tea brewing is about all of them: taste, mouth-feel, color, temperature, leaf-texture, flavor and aroma!

              1. re: liu

                That's true, with kong fu tea service, you'll need extra cups, like an aroma cup to get a whiff of the fragrance, and it's not so typical for handling more delicate teas.

            3. I use a gaiwan for most teas...puerh, green, oolongs. But for gongfu I also use the small red clay pots which are excellent for keeping a high temperature.

              Many good things have already been said about why and how to use a gaiwan. I do think HLing's clay gaiwan looks a little heavy; I would prefer porcelain/glass for a gaiwan. I am sure the gaiwan they advised at Teance will work fine. (I've been there.)

              I get together with a group of tea addicts in NYC at The Tea Gallery and have learned a lot about tea brewing from all of them. Not only can you get a nice aroma from the lid; it is nice to warm the bowl with hot water and empty it, then add the dry tea and give it a shake...then smell the aroma of the slightly moistened leaves....wonderful! And in the group, we commonly pass around the gaiwan for sniffing between steeps as well.

              One more note...if you are brewing kind of hot and the rim is really too hot to hold, you can use your thumb on the knob on the lid and your fingers can support the saucer (not the bowl) from underneath. If you have the proper angle for the lid, you can pour successfully this way, too. I have to do this sometimes!

              I have gaiwans from 4 to 6 oz. capacity. The smallest ones are just about the best way to try small tea samples, if you get just a few grams to sample.

              3 Replies
              1. re: comestible

                Hello, comestible! I am glad that you posted here.
                I love your idea of shaking the dry tea leaves in the warm, moistened bowl to enjoy the aroma...I can't wait -- I have some really good High Mountain Light Oolong that I want to bathe in!

                So, you have been to Teance in Berkeley...did you like it? What are you currently drinking? Where do you buy it?

                Also, thanks for the very specific directions on pouring a hot gaiwan; this will help my clumsy attempts!

                1. re: liu

                  Yes, I've been to Teance on 4th Av. only recently; I had been to their earlier storefront tearoom on Solano Ave. when they were called Celadon. They used to sell lovely celadon teaware but didn't have much on display at Teance when I was there...might bring it out for the holidays though.

                  I do like their teas, the few I've had. In September I brought home a "Cold Summit" medium-oxidized Dong Ding and a green from China. The Teance folks are native Taiwanese, I think, so I would expect their Taiwan teas to be their specialty. Their puerhs were all the cooked (black) variety, and I prefer the green, raw ones.

                  I'm mostly drinking those green puerhs these days, and various oolongs: light and med. oxidation, but am trying out the heavier, roasty ones which are supposed to be more traditional. Also in the oolong category I like the Wu Yi''s ("cliff tea", somewhat fruity, pungent toasty teas that taste great in cold weather) and the incredibly fruity phoenix oolongs from China that are redolent of berries or citrus (yet they are not artificially flavored!)

                  As for where I get my teas these days, I haven't been buying much except from the local Tea Gallery here in NYC -- I trust their judgment on tea -- but in the past I've gotten puerhs from Yunnan Sourcing, oolongs and greens from In Pursuit of Tea, Silk Road Teas, and other places. But it's been a while since I've ordered online, so it's hard to recommend a place right now. The tea drinkers I hang out with are pretty picky and generally complain about even the best dealers...

                  Oh, and try the "Imperial" (top line) teas offered by Imperial Tea Court (they have a Berkeley and S.F. store). Very pricey but owner Roy Fong knows his stuff. I miss their tearoom on Powell St, which I hear closed.

                  1. re: comestible

                    comestible -- I love hearing what other serious tea drinkers are enjoying, and you have inspired me a bit to give the green puerhs a try; I have not liked the darker, cooked variety. As you have mentioned, I also like the Phoenix oolongs.

                    I have checked out Imperial Tea Court online, but I have yet to order from them. Thanks for the encouraging direction on this, as I will give them a try.

              2. Oh, one more little thing about gaiwans. If you inspect them carefully, you will often find that they are a little bit out-of-round up near the rim. I have heard this is intentional...it helps create a good point where you can get a nice pour with the lid at the proper angle. It just takes a little experimentation.

                1 Reply
                1. re: comestible

                  comestible -- Your observation is very interesting...and indeed, I did notice that on the ceramic gaiwan I just received from Teance. Of course, it makes sense!

                2. thank you so much for all the information on teas, just drank it all up ! i do want to add i have a china gaiwan more like a mug which i bought from cost plus market. i keep it at work to drink tea since i prefer using tea pots at home. recent convert to puer tea. i went to sf chinatown and was at a tea tasting there so it was one of my purchases. thank you again for all the incredibly useful info and beautiful pictures.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: foodwich

                    Thanks, foodwich, for the alert about the mug-like gaiwan at Cost Plus; I will check this out. I prefer something larger than the traditional ceramic gaiwan I am using.

                    1. re: liu

                      you are welcome. i might go on a quest for a gaiwan myself. living in michigan i sometimes feel my options are limited. i have been collecting tea bowls for a few years now at potter's markets so i have been using those, if i find a beautiful gaiwan that would be nice to use.

                      1. re: foodwich

                        foodwich - The internet is full of gaiwans, but most of them are the simple, small ceramic type...mostly all the same.
                        I would love to find some that are larger and interesting...
                        Since I am in Los Angeles, I will search the Asian stores. I just never knew about this item, so I probably never noticed it on the shelves. However, if you find a source on the internet, I would love to know about it.

                        1. re: liu

                          i did check out gaiwans at imperial tea. interesting. however, havent given up yet and will continue looking. i was not really looking for a simple one. more of a collector's. but i came up with holy mountain too and they had tea bowls like i use. so the quest continues and will report on this.

                          1. re: liu

                            In terms of use... as others have mentioned in the thread, there are two ways of holding the gaiwan - thumb and middle finger on opposite sides of the rim (don't pick up the saucer at all), index finger on the lid, or else lift the saucer up with your non-dominant hand, and then hold it with the thumb on the lid and first two fingers underneath the saucer. The first method is how most people I know do it, though it takes a little finesse and practice to do it without burning your hands. The other approach is a little easier.

                            In terms of actually brewing, depends whether you're brewing gong fu style or not... but basically:

                            * Preheat the gaiwan, cha hai (if you're using one), and cups (by pouring water into the gaiwan, swirling the lid around a little to get it warm, from there into the cha hai, then from there into the cups).
                            * Put the tea leaves in, and smell the warmed and slightly moistened tea leaves
                            * Pour hot water in (if you're brewing a tightly rolled oolong, pour it in pretty hard and from up high; otherwise, you will probably want to pour it in fairly gently). If your water is hot and the tea is delicate, pour the water down the side of the gaiwan rather than onto the leaves to cool down the water a little. Put the lid on (using the lid to skim off any bubbles that might be on the surface of the water), and you can even pour a tiny bit of water on the lid so you can just see the water peeking through. Or you can put a little too much water in and tilt the whole gaiwan (using the lid) to push off the excess water.
                            * Let the tea steep however long you want (probably only a few seconds if you're brewing gong fu style). You can optionally do a rinse before your first real brew.

                            If you're brewing with a lot of leaves and doing a lot of infusions, I suggest getting a small (2-4 oz) one; if you're brewing with fewer leaves / fewer infusions, or for more than 2-3 people, you may want a slightly bigger one (6-8 oz).

                            A gaiwan is a great tool for the following:

                            1) Quick, no fuss brewing. People are intimidated by using one sometimes, but really, it's about as simple as you can get. Cleaning is easy (as someone mentioned above).
                            2) Comparing teas, or getting a sense of a tea without the coloration of brewing in Yixing clay vessels.
                            3) Brewing lighter teas (green and white teas, mostly) - most people would say that these types of teas should always be brewed in porcelain rather than in an earthenware pot, or anything else with a lot of tea retention. Of course you can use a ceramic or glass pot, or any other sort of brewing vessel that doesn't retain a lot of heat as well.

                            You can get some at WHF, but theirs are mostly crappy and ugly, except for some that they have as a set. I don't know if you can see the middle gaiwan in the rightmost row of gaiwans in the attached picture (the one without the lid), but that one is from a set from there; $40 for the gaiwan, cha hai (fair cup / pitcher), and 6 cups. Except for that set, most of the good ones I've gotten have been mail order, but it is a little bit of a crap-shoot, because the feel of a gaiwan is very important. ITCs are nice, but a little big. I really like the one from Jing (the Phoenix one in the front on that picture) - it is a perfect size for me, and feels perfect in my hands. The tiny one in the front right of the picture is from Ten Ren - it's only about 2.5 oz, which makes it perfect for brewing tea for myself.

                            Have you been to Tea Habitat (in Ranchos Palos Verdes) yet? I think I've suggested it to you in another thread. I don't know if all of her teas will be the style you like, but the owner is very helpful, and has a great selection of Chinese / Taiwanese teas and wares.

                            BTW, of the US vendors mentioned here, I don't think Seven Cups is that great based on my limited experience with them. I would definitely rank Houde, especially for Taiwanese stuff.

                            1. re: will47

                              Always, THANKS, will47! Your information is very useful.
                              In my not-very-experienced opinion, the ceramic gaiwan that I have is very traditional; I now think it will serve me in the brewing method you have outlined as I now understand the method a bit better.

                              1. re: will47

                                BTW, will47, I was listening when you recommended Hou De to me. In fact, I did order 6 different teas from them back in April. The one I liked the best from my order was their 2007 Early Spring Wood-Fired NanTou Oolong (Hand Harvested).

                                1. re: will47

                                  I've used Seven Cups more than limitedly and all of my purchases have been exceptional (plus, I find them enjoyable to deal with). However, we're all entitled to our opinions and given that Seven Cups doesn't carry much Taiwanese product, what do you recommend that Hou De carries?

                                  1. re: MacGuffin

                                    I haven't ordered a ton from either. From Hou De, I've mostly ordered teaware, but the oolongs and pu'erhs I've gotten from them have been mostly very good quality leaf. Some have been more to my particular taste than others. I like their Fo Shou (a dark, rolled style oolong) pretty well - doesn't look like they have it in stock right now, though.
                                    Their lighter TWese oolongs are good quality, but not my cup of tea (though I had a sample of a summer 2007 one that was not too bad at all). They are definitely one of the only reputable (if pricy) US outfits for aged pu'erh and older Yixing teaware, though of course you never 100% know with this stuff. I have met Guang in person at the Pasadena pu'erh event last year, and I believe he has good intentions and is an honorable person.

                                    I'm partial to the late 80s 7542, but at $550/cake, it's not cheap stuff - personally, I've just ordered a few samples here and there (at $17/10g).
                                    But keep in mind that, even within people who like aged sheng pu'erh, this is a very "love it or hate it" kind of tea - I know a lot of people who don't rate it at all, or really don't prefer the taste.

                                    The only stuff of Seven Cups that I've ordered is some Tie Guan Yin and some Tie Luo Han, and I felt that the taste was a little lacking and the price was pretty high without being that great leaf (and yes - they don't seem to specialize in TWese stuff). The thing But I haven't bought from them extensively. Plus, it's always hard to tell how honest people are being when they are selling "organic" Chinese tea. I do know who the supplier is for some or all of their Feng Huang (Phoenix) Dan Cong tea, and believe it should be good quality. BTW, Imen (at Tea Habitat) has some very good quality Dan Cong, which she not only sells at her shop, but sells mail order - her web log is at http://tea-obsession.blogspot.com/ if you want more information.

                                    I think Liu has probably already seen me mention this in other posts, but for others here... for Taiwanese oolongs, I have definitely had good luck with Stephane of Teamasters (http://teamasters.blogspot.com/). I personally like the more roasted / oxidized stuff he carries (classic roast Dong Ding, aged Baozhongs and aged Dong Ding, some of his Oriental Beauties), but his greener stuff is excellent too if you like that sort of thing.

                                    Buying tea mail order in general is risky business. First of all, taste is very subjective, and something that's someone else's favorite high grade tea may not suit you at all. Tea is tricky to brew, and very sensitive to a lot of different brewing parameters, and the few people (either in the US or overseas) who sell high grade Chinese and Taiwanese tea outside of China or Taiwan (understandably) want to charge more than they would likely charge domestically... and as this stuff can get very expensive, it's very hard to determine when someone is ripping you off, when someone's being fair, or when your vendor just didn't get a very good deal themself. Anyway, I recommend making your first order small, no matter how great you think the vendor's teas are going to be, and try and get them to send you lots of samples.

                                    Fortunately, we have a big tea group here in LA, and a lot of us buy stuff mail order, so between trying stuff that other people have ordered, samples, trips to the Bay area, and local vendors, I feel like I do Ok. I did pick up a LOT of tea when I was in China (especially in Wuyishan -- some pics from my trip at http://will-china.blogspot.com/), so these days I'm mostly working through that.

                                    And to the person who swears by Tea Gallery, they are definitely a class act and have some very good teas. I didn't manage to make it there on my last trip to the East Coast, but Michael and Winnie are very nice, and (I believe) were trained by the proprieter of the Best Tea House in HK, which has a very good reputation.

                                    Sorry for ranting - hoping I'm making some sense over here. But lastly, one word of advice: don't forget about water, because it's the "mother of tea". Consider using spring water, or remineralized filtered water to brew your tea. And play around with the different brewing parameters. Think about quantity of leaf, temperature, etc., but don't obsess about them like a scientist - just try to enjoy your tea, and over time, you'll develop a sense of how the different paremeters affect how your tea comes out.

                                    The Tea Gallery
                                    21 Howard St, New York, NY 10013

                                    Tea Habitat
                                    21B Peninsula Center, Palos Verdes, CA

                                    1. re: will47

                                      I have to agree, that playing around with different times, and parameters as you so well put it, is another thing that makes tea so wonderful. Sometimes I feel like a scientist, sometimes an artist! Exploring, taking time to enjoy the moments you make and drink your tea..It's just so worthwhile for my psyche.

                                      Thanks to this thread alone, i'm looking to expand my tea knoowledge and get a gaiwan, and see where that will take me. I admit to being quite ignorant to quality Chinese teas, having grown up on bagged jasmine tea when my family would go out to eat Chinese food. (I still greatly enjoy that, actually- jasmine tea, that is!)

                                      A good friend who knows about my love of tea just went to Macau, and brought me back a small (but cute!) tea assortment, in decorative tins. While i'm thrilled she thought of me (and I don't look down on her gift, in the least), i'm betting she got it at a touristy place that isn't big on the quality of tea. (again....I could be very wrong)

                                      This have been a fantastic, educating, and fun thread. Thank you, fellow tea-lovers! I raise my pot to you all.

                                      1. re: Honeychan

                                        Honeychan -- I love your post and your "...and see where that will take me" approach. I totally agree that it is part science and part art...well said!
                                        I continue my search for those great cups of tea, and I just never know when one will happen...what a special surprise!
                                        Please do continue to post your experiences, experiments and findings.

                                      2. re: will47

                                        I met Michael and Winnie very briefly over the weekend (I was on my way to a monthly shape note sing, hence my being on the LES) and they seemed very nice. I really liked the shop and want to get down there again at some point.
                                        I recently ordered quite a bit of teaware from Stephane (including a gaiwan set) which I'm very much looking forward to receiving. I bought a rather pricey tea tray set from him which I suspect I could've gotten cheaper if I'd settled for something Chinese-made (in fact, there's one on Hou De for about $80 less), but this is made in Taiwan and the photos looked lovely. Plus, he's French--I'm sure he has good taste. :) He sends samples of tea with all his orders so if anyone is interested, I'll post after I've tried them. I do intend to order tea from him in the future because I'm very partial to Wen Shan baozhong in particular and Taiwanese oolongs in general. (I'm becoming acquainted with Wu Yi oolongs at present, though. So different!)
                                        We in Manhattan are lucky in that our water is actually quite delicious (guests often comment on it); I just use a Brita pitcher to rid what I drink of things that shouldn't be there. Not too hard, not too soft, neutral pH by law--what more could you want?
                                        Good advice about ordering small, BTW. One thing I like about TeaSpring is that you can buy 25 g quantities, which I think is a nice trial size. Also good advice not to get too obsessive. I fretted for a while but as I gained confidence and experience, I began to relax and have some fun.

                                  2. re: liu

                                    ps - What are you looking for that's not small and simple? IMO, small and simple is what you SHOULD be looking for. Even with a small amount of leaf, you can brew most teas several times, so unless you're brewing for a huge crowd, you'll want one that's smaller than you might think. A large one would really only be good as decoration. WHF does have a couple of large, supposedly antique, ones (I think both at the Chinatown store and the SGV store) that you might find of interest; they're a little overpriced, though.

                                    pps - Valley Coffee and Tea, on Valley Blvd. in the SGV has a couple as well... nicer than the ones at WHF, I think. Other than that, and Tea Habitat, they're hard to find in this area. I saw a couple at Hugos in West Hollywood, but they were huge and overpriced.

                            2. there are so many ways to enjoy tea-
                              www.franchia.com- great site for korean tea and korean tea ceremony

                              1. The very best vendor for Chinese tea here in the US is Seven Cups in Phoenix. If you visit their site, you'll notice that there are a number of instructional podcasts, one of which demonstrates how to brew with a gaiwan http://www.sevencups.com/education/te.... The owner's wife is one of the very few women certified by the Chinese government as a tea master. These folks are PASSIONATE about providing high-to-highest-end Chinese tea (they've started carrying some Taiwanese oolongs as well). Should you order from them, make sure to join their tea club first to earn points towards future purchases. They're very committed to educating their customer base about the best ways to brew and enjoy their purchases, be it with a tall glass, a gaiwan, or an Yi Xing pot.
                                For the reader who was interested in things Japanese, go to http://www.hibiki-an.com/. They sell their own superlative tea grown on their Uji farm and have some sublime teaware as well. Again, extremely high-end, but better than anything available locally, and often for less, too. These folks are similarly passionate about their products, plus they encourage customer reviews as well. Free shipping on all teaware and on all orders of $35 or more, plus it's in your box in <a week.
                                Pardon my blathering on in response to a simple question, but I'm really into all things tea. :)

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: MacGuffin

                                  WOW -- Thanks, MacGuffin!
                                  I really appreciate these two new (for me) resources, and I will check them out immediately. You mentioned the magic words: "Taiwanese oolongs." These are my current favorites, and I would love to get an education while sipping some wonderful tea!
                                  Also, I can't wait to check the "hibiki_an" site you have recommended.
                                  Much appreciation to you! And Happy New Year!

                                  1. re: liu

                                    Thrilled to help (and check your in-box)! Another source I like is Teaspring.com. Their prices are lower because they ship direct from China (Seven Cups imports everything and sells from Phoenix). I really feel safer ordering from Seven Cups because their product has to clear the FDA (in addition to their numerous aforementioned virtues) but Teaspring has some nice stuff including interesting herbals. They're also very pleasant and professional.
                                    For anyone interested in sampling what's supposedly the best that Vietnam has to offer, check out Tao of Tea. They allow orders as small as one ounce, and their Vietnamese line is interesting and comparatively inexpensive. Not nearly as refined or complex as any of the other teas cited, they're definitely worth trying and are better than what's found in Vietnamese stores.

                                  2. re: MacGuffin

                                    Hello, MacGuffin!
                                    I have located Seven Cups in Tucson, but I do not see an address for them in Phoenix. ???
                                    If you have a Phoenix address for them, I would love to share this tea shop with my friend there.

                                  3. Liu,
                                    What kind of tea are you brewing with the gaiwan? I eschew all plastic implements in the infusion process.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: frugalgourmet

                                      Hi, frugalgourmet!
                                      I am brewing oolongs and greens in my gaiwan. These are pretty much the types I currently enjoy the most. I can be more specific with the exact teas, but I think you are asking for merely the types, yes?

                                      1. re: liu

                                        Oh, that explains it. The infusion process for both teas require water temperature just slightly below boiling(you will see lots of small bubbles in the water before it becomes a boil). And you need to preheat the gaiwan warming up to at least the same temperature as the hot water for infusion. There are 2 types of Oolong, the greener or darker. The darker version is my preference that requires higher temperature infusion at 99 degree F while the ideal temperature for greener tea is 85 degrees.

                                        1. re: frugalgourmet

                                          I think you mean "Celsius," no? It gets hotter in July here in NYC than the temperatures you cite. :)