To brew tea properly requires the right tea utensils. To enjoy tea fully requires aesthetically pleasing tea utensils.
You can find a wide range of teaware and tea utensils to provide the best enjoyment and satisfaction in drinking tea; from porcelain, earthenware, or glass teawares; bamboo or wood tea trays; tea furniture to accent the living space; to just simple but necessary tea accessories.
Earthenware and Porcelain Teawares
Earthenware and porcelain teaware comes in a variety of different glazes to enhance the tea experience. Each piece should be finely crafted of very high quality porcelain or earthenware; from the famous kilns of China. When you inspect each piece, there should be no defects in the glaze. And each part should match well to each other. That is, lids for teapots should fit snugly; and handles and spouts should be symmetrical to the body of the teapot.
Porcelain Tea Utensils
To give you a head’s up, here’s a list of some common gong fu tea utensils, and some handy information about gong fu tea utensils.
Also called gaibei. It’s a covered cup used for brewing tea. Some gaiwan consist of 2 parts, cup and lid. Other gaiwan have 3 parts – cup, lid, and a holding saucer. Because of their practicality, and ease of use, gaiwan are used almost exclusively to brew teas in Fujian. They also let you taste the true character of a tea. Great for evaluating teas. (Brewing capacity: approx. mL)
Also called cha hai, or cha zhong. This is a serving pitcher used to store tea after steeping in the gaiwan. (capacity: approx. mL)
These are typically used with Taiwan-style gong fu tea. After the tea has been poured out of these tall, cylindrical cups into the tasting cups, the smelling cups are used to sniff the lingering fragrance of the tea.
When brewing teas with relatively small leaves, it’s practical to use a porcelain teapot instead of a gaiwan. Using these small teapots also adds to the charm of drinking tea. (Brewing capacity: approx. mL)
This is a round, straight-sided bowl. Filled with water, it’s used to store the small tea cups after use. It prevents tea stains from building up on the cups, since they are immediately rinsed after use. It’s also convenient for carrying the other tea utensils to be washed in the sink.
This is a special type of teaware, characteristic of the Chaozhou-style of brewing gong fu tea. It consists of a porcelain bowl with a fitted lid with drainage holes. Tea is prepared on the lid, and the spill-over water or tea drains away into the bowl below. After enjoying tea, the spent leaves can be dumped into the bowl, and kept out of sight.
This is a bowl-like tray with a raised platform in the middle, specially used with Zisha teapots. It’s a handy tool which helps keep your valuable Zisha teapots in perfect condition. Each time you brew tea, the excess tea flows over the outside of the teapot, helping it to retain tea essence and flavor; at the same time, it creates a patina on the teapot, enhancing the beauty and luster of the pot. Then, using a brush, you can brush the outside of the pot, to ensure it is evenly coated in tea essence. The teapot tray allows the excess tea to flow away from the pot, while you attend to your treasured teapot.
Zisha teapots come from Yixing, Jiangsu province, China. The finest ones are hand-crafted using fine zisha clays in purple (dark brown), red, and yellow. Zisha clay is dense yet porous. This advantage allows tea essence to seep into the pores of the teapot. Over an extended period of time of successive repeated brews, the flavor of each new brew improves. So after repeated use of a zisha teapot, the flavor of your tea will only get better and better.
Chapan (tea tray) come in two styles. There are drainer sink types and spigot types.
Drainer sink types have a slotted tray into which fits a plastic drain plate underneath. You empty the drain plate underneath throughout the day as it fills with water and spent tea leaves. The drainer sink type has many slots or openings in the top, allowing excess liquids to directly pour down into the drain plate underneath.
Chapan come in a variety of sturdy, elegant, lustrous hardwoods to enhance the tea experience. Most are made from a single piece of wood. There are also bamboo chapan, which are lighter in weight, but as sturdy as the wood chapan.
There are other types of tea utensils that are handy and even necessary:
Tea strainers are made from a variety of materials – from earthenware and porcelain, aluminum, stainless steel, to gourd. Whatever type you choose, it should have a very fine mesh to prevent all the tea fines from giving you a murky cup of tea.
Also called a strainer rest, this is a helpful and elegant tool, which helps you to keep your tea strainer handy for the next pour of tea.
Tongs are necessary to grasp the little gongfu cups full of hot water (or hot tea). When rinsing cups, you fill each cup to overflowing. Using tongs, therefore, will save your fingers from scalding.Tongs can be made of either wood or stainless steel. The wooden tongs are showy, but the stainless steel tongs are much easier to use, and have a good, solid grip.
Tea spoons are useful to take measured amounts of tea from the tea caddy or tea canister. They are made from a variety of materials.
Tea tools come in a set of four tools: tea spoon, tea tongs, tea scoop and tea needle. The tea scoop is used along with the chahe, to put a measured amount of tea into the teapot. And the tea needle is useful to clear any stoppages or blockage of tea leaf bits in the spouts of teapots, etc.
These are leaf receptacles or holders for dry tea leaves. They are great for examining the tea leaf. They have a funnel-like end to allow easy scooping into the teapot or gaiwan.