Gaiwan also kaj-wan, cha wan or also zhong is a traditional part of tea preparation that originated in the Ming Dynasty.
This was an era when the production of ceramics and porcelain was flourishing, which prompted the creation of this vessel. The precursor to the gaiwan of today was the bowl known as the chawan.
Gaiwan came into use at a time when tea consumption began to favour leaves over powder. It is a cup that is used to steep tea leaves and at the same time to consume it. It is made up of a bowl and a lid, and later a saucer became part of the set.
This vessel is primarily suitable for fine teas, i.e. white and green teas.
What makes them different
A typical characteristic of this vessel is its ability to dissipate heat easily. This is due to its shape, which expands from the bottom.
There is no need for a strainer to pour the tea. The lid that comes with the set doesn’t fit the cup exactly. A gap is created allowing the tea to just pour.
Hence the name gaiwan, literally translatable as gai (covered) and wan (bowl).
Size of gaiwan
The size of gaiwan is for one person, the current ones are around 100 ml. It makes it easy to prepare tea to your taste, including the temperature of the water and the strength of the infusion.
Made from a variety of materials, it can be porcelain or glass, or ceramic or yixing stoneware. The container is easy to clean, the aroma of the tea does not mix undesirably even when preparing different types.