Sunday, December 20, 2015

Chai Wares: Obi Gaiwan Kenobi!

The Toronto tea tasting troopers were out in full force to yet another event held at Infuse Café. The purpose of this session was to sip some oolongs with the aid of a gaiwan. A gaiwan is a set of Chinese dishes specifically made to prepare teas in small quantities. It is especially good for oolongs which may be infused many times over. 

A gaiwan set.

The basic gaiwan set comes in 3 pieces:

Gai = Lid
Wan = Bowl
Die = Saucer

We sampled a selection of 4 different oolongs:
  1. Tieguanyin or Iron Goddess of Mercy
  2. Alishan
  3. Ruby River, a tea by Rishi Tea
  4. Dong Ding

Add some tea leaves.


Allow to infuse.

These oolongs were all made in two very different ways. The first, using a gaiwan. The second, using the BKON method. The BKON brews were really good! Much like the white teas we enjoyed last month, I do believe that the more delicate teas really work well with the BKON. The gaiwan infusions were wonderful, of course! Cannot mess with tradition.

A perfect cup!

So how do you use a gaiwan? There are no tricks. All you need is a steady hand and some confidenc
e. “Your focus determines your reality”. Here are some simple steps to use as a guideline:

1.   Have some boiled water ready and available in a teapot or pitcher.

2.   Rinse the gaiwan with the hot water to make it warm. Discard this water.

3.   Place your tea leaves in the gaiwan. About 2 teaspoons should be enough.

4.   Pour some water over the leaves and cover the bowl with the lid.

5.   Depending on the tea used, allow the appropriate time for the infusion process.

6.   When the tea is ready, position the lid askew to the bowl, hold your thumb on the lid, and a couple of fingers on the underside of the bowl, hold the vessel upside down, and pour the liquor into a pitcher.

7.   Pour infused tea from the pitcher into your cup for consumption.

8.   Repeat the process for multiple infusions. Step 2 may be skipped at this point.

I know what some of you may be thinking: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”. Don’t worry! “Do. Or do not. There is no try”. SO DO! You will have an awesome tea drinking experience. Not only will you be enjoying your teas that taste different with each infusion, but you’ll witness the slow unfurling of the tea leaves as they expand within the tiny gaiwan. Trust me. These oolongs were coiled tighter than Princess Leia’s double-bun hairdo! With each infusion, the tea leaves began to reveal their true identity. 

Looks like a tiny toilet! Ha!


The revelation!

Once you’ve mastered the basics of using a gaiwan, you can use your Jedi-like skills and play around with temperatures, timings, quantities, proper warming and cleaning of the vessel, and a variety of other rituals associated with the gaiwan.

As the year quickly winds down, so too does our tea tasting sessions. The Empire Strikes Back in the New Year, so until then, “May the force be with you”!



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