Tippy Interviews Li Juan the Gaiwan

lijuan

Hello Dearies! A little while back I did my very first interview. It went so well, that I decided it was time for another! Today you’re going to learn about Li Juan, a very beautiful Chinese Gaiwan. Li Juan now lives with Kat’s friend Sansan, who brought her back from a trip to China a few years ago. The gaiwan is used to steep tea in the gong fu style. You can learn a little more about this method and see another picture of Li Juan right here. But I’ll let you learn more about this beautiful vessel in our interview below!

How are you used? I hold a large amount of tea leaves with a small amount of water. You can use the highest quality leaves you can find, because I extract as much flavor as possible from those beautiful leaves. I steep the leaves very quickly, only a few seconds for the first couple of steepings. I can be tricky to use, as you have to balance my lid and often my saucer in one hand while pouring out the tea.

What’s your favorite thing about steeping tea in the gong fu style? I love how I get to give the tea taster a full flavored brew. I give you a true taste for the tea. I also love that with each steep you can watch the leaves start to unfurl while they change in flavor. Using a gaiwan helps you get more interactive with your tea. It is also quite meditative.

Are you usually used with any other teaware? You could pour the tea I steep right into little tasting cups, but it’s best to first pour the tea liquor into a fairness pitcher, or cha hai. This is a small pitcher used to make sure everyone’s tea is steeped exactly the same. It’s easier to distribute and pour into the cups using a pitcher, and it even lowers the temperature of the tea a little bit, which makes it a bit more comfortable to drink.

What teas do you work best with? I urge you to try and steep all different types of tea in your gaiwan and see what the results are like. Play around with the amount of leaves and see what you like best. But I am mostly used for oolong, puerh, and Chinese white and yellow teas. But as I said, have fun experimenting!

What is your favorite tea to steep? I love many types of teas but my most favorite to steep are raw puerh teas. I just love that you can steep these aged teas for many, many infusions. Sometimes you can enjoy them all day long! The flavors greatly change over a period of steepings. Some of my favorite raw puerh teas have surprising flavors such as sweet fruit and woodsy notes.

Is there anything important you’d like to tell my readers about using a gaiwan? well I’d ask that you please make sure to practice on a sturdier gaiwan before trying a more delicate vessel like mine. It takes bit of practice to pour the water into the fairness pitcher. Don’t forget that if you’re using black teas or roasted oolongs, the temperature of the water can be quite hot, and it takes practice not to burn your fingers! Don’t be ashamed in quite a bit of practice before trying a fancier gaiwan!

Oh thank you so much Li Juan for taking the time for this interview! Dearies, I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about being a gaiwan as much as I did.

Pairing Tea And Pie

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You know I always look for reasons for celebration, and I’ve noticed that March 14th (3/14) is Pi Day! Yes, there is an entire day dedicated to celebrate the mathematical constant 3.14. Dearies, I’m more interested in tea and treats than mathematics so I’ve decided to celebrate with pie! Pie and tea, to be exact.

Let’s start off with sweet pies and teas. I like pairing a first flush Darjeeling with lighter tasting fruit pies such as peach, lemon, and strawberry. The earthy, grapey sweet muscatel notes in the tea work very nicely with these delicate fruit flavors. A light green tea such as sencha or nuttier dragonwell would also be a good choice. A lightly roasted oolong such as a Lishan would be a lovely choice. It is sweet, floral and a little bit grassy. These teas are light enough to let the delicate fruit flavors shine through, and their sweet and floral notes will complement the fruit.

For stronger fruits like blueberry, and cherry I like heavily roasted oolongs such as Tieguanyin and Da Hong Pao. The strong toasty notes, stone-fruit sweetness, even caramel notes compliment the pies and let the darker flavors come out. The fruit have bold flavors and need a stronger tea to compliment them. You could also try a nice Chinese black tea such as Dian Hong, which will be sweet, malty, with hints of dried fruit. The brightness of the tea will bring out the tart fruit notes.

You could also go for a savory pie! How about a shepherd’s pie with a dark puerh? The puerh will work well in cutting through that savory meaty goodness. It also helps with the digestion! Or I think a second flush Darjeeling would be lovely with a chicken pot-pie. It’s just the right amount of earthy, floral, and a little bit astringent to complement the chicken and veggies.

Instead of pairing teas with your pie, how about putting tea in the pie? I found this scrumptious recipe for Sweet Tea Lemon Chess Pie. This sweet, buttery, lemony tea-filled pie would be the perfect way to celebrate pi day! I’m printing this recipe out right now and leaving it on Kat’s desk. I’m not too subtle when it comes to hints, especially tea-related ones!

So my lovelies, will you be celebrating pi day with some pie and tea? I can’t think of a better reason to indulge. Can you?

Know Your Teaware: Gaiwan

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Dearies we’ve talked a little bit about different teaware, and today I’m featuring a vessel that helps you brew your tea carefully, with attention and reverence for the tea leaves. One of the ways to get the full flavor out of full leaf tea is to use a gaiwan. If you are a tea enthusiast you’ve probably seen one of these vessels, and perhaps you own one yourself!

 A gaiwan is a bowl-shaped vessel with a lid and saucer. You put a large amount of leaves inside, and use short steeps of tea. You use the lid to carefully hold back the leaves as you pour out the tea into a pitcher, and then pour into cups. It’s a simple way to prepare tea, and extract the full flavor of the leaves. Kat likes using a gaiwan because it helps her get to really know the tea. You brew small batches with quick steeps, and re-steep many times over. By brewing this way you can see how the flavor of the tea changes with each steep, and watch the leaves open up and release all of their unique flavors.

 You can use just about any loose leaf tea with nice big leaves. Kat uses her gaiwan for everything from Chinese green and black teas, to puerh, and oolongs. It takes a little bit of practice to get used to brewing and pouring with a gaiwan. So be sure to use one that is inexpensive and sturdy for your first experience. Kat picked up an inexpensive thick ceramic gaiwan in her local Asian market for just a few dollars. It worked nicely as a practice vessel. She’s now graduated to one that’s slightly more delicate but she hasn’t purchased an expensive one as she still feels a bit clumsy with it. She also has a glass gaiwan that gets used all the time. It’s sturdy and you can watch the tea leaves change with each steep.

 The best way to learn how to use a gaiwan is practice. A visual aid is handy, and this video is a great introduction. Since the vessel is usually ceramic or glass, you don’t need to worry about using it for one particular tea, like a yixing teapot. You can simply clean it out and use with a different tea. Kat has started using a gaiwan to prepare small cups of tea for friends because it makes a delicious cup of tea but also is fun to watch! You get a little table side theatrics with your tea tasting.

 Kat likes to set up her tea table with flowers and a favorite tea pet (dearies, learn more about tea pets here!)This makes the gaiwan brewing process a bit more personal. Do you have a favorite gaiwan? What teas do you enjoy preparing with it?

Re-steeping Your Tea Leaves

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Tea isn’t just a delicious drink, it is also economical. Even the most expensive tea leaves seem a bit more reasonable when you realize those leaves can be used more than once. Dearies, don’t get rid of those leaves after one cup! You can get a few servings of tea with just one batch of leaves.

For whole leaf teas, you can get quite a few steeps out of those leaves. The color and flavor of the teas change after each steep. Many teas get lighter, but oolongs and pu-erhs will start to change drastically. New flavors will be introduced after a few cups. I love hearing Kat’s reaction as she goes for her 3rd or 4th steep of one of these teas. She is always amazed at how the flavors transform.

If you are using a bagged tea, whole-leaf bags are best to get more than one steep. Bags with small leaf bits will not do as well. When the leaves are cut into small pieces, the flavor is infused much quicker, so there is less to give in a second steep. But it never hurts to try and see what happens.

Black teas will lose the most flavor after a couple of steeps. But the larger the leaves, the more you’ll get out of them. Pu-erh teas are amazing for re-steeping. Some can get upwards of 20 steeps! Oolongs also hold up to many steeps and green teas can get a few as well. Basically the larger the leaf, the more life you’ll get out of them.

Kat and I always steep up a storm, and here are a few of our re-steeping tips:

-Be careful making that first serving of tea. You don’t want to over-steep the leaves! That will take away some of the power for the next infusion. To make sure you don’t over-steep your leaves, follow the suggested steep time and temperature for the tea, and use a timer.

-If you are using a teapot or cup, use a tea strainer for the leaves. That way you can take the leaves out once they are infused and stop that steeping process.

-You can also use a gaiwan, which is a traditional Chinese tea vessel. When brewing in a gaiwan you generally use more leaves, steep quickly, and empty the liquid out each time you infuse into a separate cup. If you’d like to learn more about using a gaiwan, you can check out this helpful guide.

-When you re-steep you may want to increase the brew time just a little bit with each steep. The leaves are losing their potency, and can use the extra infusion time.

It’s difficult to say exactly how many steeps you can get out of a particular tea. Taste is subjective, so just go with your palate. Don’t be afraid to try one more steep. If the brew still tastes good after a few infusions, go for one more!