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Essential Gongfu Teaware For Chinese Tea Part I

Written by: Cary Woo



Time to read 12 min


Here, you will find information on choosing your Gongfu Teaware sets for Chinese tea, from the most straightforward starter sets to the most complex pro selections.

Why you can trust us:

  • With over a decade of experience in the tea industry and over six years of operating teahouses, we are experts in Chinese tea.
  • We sell over 1,000 kilograms of tea to tea enthusiasts every year.
  • We only sell tea that we have personally enjoyed and believe to be of high quality. This is our unwavering commitment for the past 10 years.

Want to know more? Visit our store

1. Why do we need professional tea sets for Gongfu tea?

The transition from tea bags to good loose-leaf tea is like the transition from instant to hand-brewed coffee. We need more suitable tools to release the authentic flavor of tea leaves and experience the subtle changes that different teas bring us. Just as tasting hand-brewed coffee allows us to feel the aroma and richness of the coffee beans, brewing tea with the proper teawares can also allow the tea leaves to exhibit their unique flavors and profound connotations. Tea is not just a simple beverage but also a culture and a way of life. By choosing the right tools, we can better taste the essence of tea, appreciate the charm of tea culture, and experience the beautiful changes that tea brings us.

2. With so many Gongfu teawares, how do I make the right choice?

When choosing tea sets, there are so many factors to consider. Do you want to start with green, black, or pu'er tea? Where can you find reliable tea set suppliers? Will you be using it for personal use or special occasions? Do you prefer portable or home-use sets? Glass or Glassic? Metal or purple clay? Simple design or traditional style? Oh my, my decision-making paralysis is kicking in again.

Let me help you out. Let's simplify this issue by categorizing tea sets based on their functions. We can divide them into main tea sets, auxiliary tea sets, and other tea accessories.

categorizing tea sets based on their functions. We can divide them into main tea sets, auxiliary tea sets, and other tea accessories.

  • Main Tea Sets: When brewing tea, we need hot water, a teapot or bowl, and a cup to pour the tea into. These three are the most basic requirements; we can define them as the leading tea sets. They are essential for brewing tea and starting to enjoy it.

  • Auxiliary Tea Sets: If you want to enhance your tea-drinking experience, we have auxiliary tea sets, such as a beautifully designed tea towel for wiping spills, a tin tea canister for storing tea leaves, a tea tray for holding tea ware and collecting water from rinsing or cooling tea, and various tea pets made of different materials to accompany your tea journey. These auxiliary sets can significantly enhance your tea-drinking experience.

  • Other Tea Accessories: Different types of tea require different accessories. For example, you'll need a tea needle and sealed bags for compressed tea cakes. Green tea requires a sealed tea canister. We'll discuss these accessories in later blogs.

3. Main Tea Sets - Equipment for Boiling Water

3.1 Some general information

  1. 3.1.1 Choosing the Right Water

It uses mineral, purified, or softened water undergoing reverse osmosis (RO) purification. Do not use tap water or water that is too hard (containing high levels of calcium, magnesium, and iron ions), as it can form an oily film on the surface of the tea soup, seriously affecting the taste of the tea leaves.

  1. 3.1.2 Water Temperature Requirements

Whether using a thermos, an electric kettle, or a temperature-controlled electric kettle, it's best to use a hot water source with a relatively constant temperature. A consistent water temperature ensures the tea leaves release their optimal flavor and aroma. Too hot or cold water can affect the release of volatile components in the tea leaves, resulting in a weak or bitter taste. Water temperature affects the dissolution rate of different components in the tea, affecting its strength. A constant water temperature helps control the strength of the tea, ensuring that the brewed tea has a moderate strength. They use a continuous water temperature when brewing tea to improve the stability of the brewing process, resulting in a more uniform flavor and avoiding the instability of the flavor caused by changes in water temperature.

  1. 3.1.3 Points to Consider When Choosing a Kettle

Material: Choosing kettles made of glass, stainless steel, or ceramic is best. Stainless steel kettles are durable and easy to clean, glass kettles allow you to observe the boiling process, and ceramic kettles have some insulation properties. Cast iron kettles are not recommended, as they can easily rust and affect water quality and taste if not correctly maintained.

Capacity: Gongfu tea sets usually use small kettles, with a capacity generally between 500ml and 1000ml.

Design: The kettle's design should meet the requirements of Gongfu tea. For example, the spout should be designed to pour water smoothly, similar to a swan neck, and the handle should be comfortable and easy to grip.

Boiling speed: Since Gongfu tea requires frequent water boiling, choosing a kettle that boils water quickly is more convenient. An electric kettle with a power rating of around 1500W is preferable.

Safety: The kettle should have features such as auto-shutoff overheating protection and anti-scald handles to ensure it does not cause accidental injuries during use.

Brand and reputation: You can choose well-known brands with good reputations, which can guarantee the kettle's quality and after-sales service.

3.2 Beginner's Choice

At this level, we hope you can purchase suitable products for at most $30 because you only need boiling water and a container to hold the hot water, so you don't need to spend too much money. Of course, if there are additional features, such as a temperature display, it will be better for you to control the water temperature.

3.2.1 Insulated Water Bottles

As a starting point, you can choose a household insulated water bottle. Pour boiling water into the bottle, and then you can use it. Of course, insulated water bottles with temperature indicators available for sale can help you better understand the water temperature. Search for "Insulated Water Bottles" on Amazon, and you can buy a good-quality product for about $20 or purchase our specially designed insulated water bottle for tea brewing with a temperature display.

This thermos flask is the perfect companion for brewing tea and coffee. It has a temperature display, long-lasting insulation, one-hand operation, one-touch water dispensing, leak-proof sealing, and is made from healthy materials.

3.2.2 Electric Kettle

It is recommended that you purchase directly from Amazon for brands you are familiar with, as this is more secure. Consider several points: stainless steel or glass insulation, high power, and overheat or dry burn protection.

3.3 Pro's Choice

At this level, our budget is $100 or more, and we hope to have more and better features, including more precise water temperature control, better materials, superior industrial design, better water flow control, etc. This level of kettle can provide more professional support for brewing tea.

3.3.1 Brewista Artisan Electric Gooseneck Kettle

Yes, please directly purchase this kettle from Amazon or a retailer; the price is about $160. Reasons for choosing:

  • Precise temperature control
  • Pleasant water flow: comfortable "gooseneck" handle and gooseneck spout for better water pouring control
  • Quick boiling and insulation
  • Brand reputation in the coffee equipment field

3.3.2 Bonavita 1L Digital Variable Temperature Gooseneck Electric Kettle

Please directly purchase this kettle from Amazon or a supermarket; the price is about $130. It also has precise temperature control, 1-hour insulation, and a gooseneck spout for precise water flow control.

Brewista Artisan Electric Gooseneck Kettle

3.3.3 K·KOU Smart Automatic Water Kettle (only supports 220V voltage)

This brand is the most common one you will see in high-end tea houses in China, and it is also the most recognized electric kettle brand among Chinese tea enthusiasts, representing professionalism, stability, and durability. Moreover, you can get better features at a more reasonable price. We highly recommend it.

K·KOU is designed for Chinese tea. Its rich product line includes temperature control and insulation and sets brewing temperatures for several common types of tea. Their proudest design is the variable frequency constant temperature design, which controls subtle temperature changes and keeps the water temperature constant. Hence, the water is not repeatedly boiled and cooled. The kettle body is made entirely of stainless steel, and the temperature sensor is ingeniously designed at the bottom of the kettle.

However, they mainly target the Chinese market, so all product lines only support 220V/50Hz AC. This brand is recommended if your country supports 220V/50Hz appliances. You can purchase it from reliable suppliers or our store.

While we have an excellent track record with this brand's kettles, having purchased over ten without any quality issues, we cannot provide after-sales warranty service for electrical appliances.

3.4 Top-Tier Teaware Selection

We hope to get more at this level, and the budget for just the kettle alone may need to exceed $200. We will get advanced features such as automatic water filling, tea teaware disinfection, intelligent full automation, tea brewing, or more natural and traditional kettle tools.

3.5 Other Teaware Options

We have more options, such as using olive core, longan, or walnut charcoal to heat a clay pot for boiling water, bringing a more exciting and traditional atmosphere to the tea brewing process. After all, 1400 years ago, ancient Chinese poets wrote the ancient poem, "The fire in the stove is endless, adding green fire; sitting in the red clouds around the stove to boil tea." In some parts of China, there is still a habit of boiling tea around the stove. We will not recommend products for such very niche options.

to boil water using charcoal fire

4. Main Tea Sets - Tea Brewing Tools

Tea brewing is a way to drink tea, a way of life, and a pursuit of inner tranquility. Besides choosing high-quality tea leaves, selecting suitable tea brewing tools is also crucial to brewing a fragrant cup of tea with a lingering taste. The variety of teapot shapes may require a lifetime of study.

To help everyone make a choice, we have selected the most classic and standard tea brewing tools to introduce to you.

4.1 Traditional Teaware - Purple Clay Teapot/Zi Sha Hu

  • What is a purple clay teapot? It is a traditional Chinese handmade pottery craft made from Yixing purple clay, produced through firing. This type of clay contains rich minerals and trace elements and has good air permeability and water absorption, making it very suitable for brewing Chinese tea leaves. Besides green tea, all types of tea are ideal for brewing in a purple clay teapot, especially semi-fermented teas like oolong tea, which can best reflect the original flavor of the tea leaves.
  • How is a purple clay teapot made? Making a purple clay teapot requires multiple methods, including selecting clay materials, mixing, forming, decorating, and firing. Each pot requires exquisite ceramic skills and experienced masters to complete.
  • What does a purple clay teapot look like? Purple clay teapots have traditional and modern shapes, with conventional shapes including round, square, flat, gourd-shaped, and bamboo-jointed. Each shape has its unique meaning and cultural connotation.
  • How much does a purple clay teapot cost? The price of a purple clay teapot varies significantly due to quality, craftsmanship, authorship, and age, ranging from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of RMB yuan. Generally, an ordinary purple clay teapot of acceptable quality for daily use is priced between several hundred and several thousand RMB yuan. In contrast, works by famous artists or historically significant purple clay teapots may cost tens or even millions of yuan.
hand-made Yixing Zi Sha Pot

4.2 Traditional Teaware - Gaiwan

  • 4.2.1 Gaiwan is the most versatile tea-brewing tool

    There is a saying among tea enthusiasts, "A Gaiwan can travel the world," and another saying, "A Gaiwan can brew anything." This means Gaiwan is a versatile tea-brewing tool that can brew any tea.

  • 4.2.2 The philosophical meaning of Gaiwan's shape in Chinese philosophy

    The shape of the Gaiwan, with a lid, a saucer, and a bowl, represents heaven, earth, and man, respectively. Therefore, it is called the "Three Powers Gaiwan" or "Three Powers Cup," symbolizing the unity of heaven, earth, and man.

  • 4.2.3 How to use a Gaiwan

    Gaiwan requires coordination between the thumb, index finger, and middle finger. The thumb and middle finger are responsible for holding the bowl, while the index finger is used to "cross" over the lid knob to secure the lid. If the tip of the index finger touches the recessed part of the lid knob, it is straightforward to get burned by the high temperature.

  • 4.2.6 Capacity Selection for Gaiwan

  • Common capacities: Small: 100ml, 110ml, 120ml, 130ml; Medium: 150ml, 250ml; Large: 300ml and above.
  • Recommendation: For beginners, a Gaiwan with a capacity of 100-150ml is suitable. This capacity is just right, easy to grip, and can be used for brewing black tea, white tea, green tea, pu-erh tea, black tea, or oolong tea.
Gaiwan for Gongfu Tea
  • 4.2.4 Five core considerations for choosing a Gaiwan

    When selecting a Gaiwan, there are five key points to consider:

    1. Is it hot to the touch? The bowl rim should be extended outward as much as possible. If it is too upright, it will be hot after hot water is poured in.
    2. Is it easy to grip? The capacity should be suitable. A Gaiwan with a capacity that is too large is challenging to grip. Start with a smaller Gaiwan.
    3. Does the tea flow smoothly?
    4. Does it gather fragrance and energy?
    5. Does it facilitate the expansion of tea leaves?
    6. For points 3-5, you can generally judge by observing the shape of the Gaiwan. A good Gaiwan is proportionate and elegant. The gains we recommend in the following sections have been carefully selected so you can buy them confidently.

4.3 Modern Teawares - Elegant Brewing Cup

  • 4.3.1 The most significant advantage of the Elegant Brewing Cup lies in its convenient control of brewing time.

    The Elegant Brewing Cup is a very convenient and easy-to-use tea brewing teaware. It consists of an upper cup, a lower cup, and a tea strainer. Pressing the tea strainer separates the tea and water, allowing you to brew a fragrant cup of tea quickly.

    The most significant advantage of the Elegant Brewing Cup is its ability to control the brewing time conveniently. This makes it an excellent choice for beginners and a convenient option.

  • 4.3.2 Tips for Choosing an Elegant Brewing Cup 

  • Material: It is recommended that you purchase a glass one. Common materials include glass, ceGlasss, and stainless steel. Glass is Glassy transparent, allowing you to enjoy the process of brewing tea visually, but it is fragile; ceramic is beautiful and has good heat preservation, but it is heavy and less commonly sold; and stainless steel is sturdy and durable.
  • Capacity: Choose according to personal needs and usage scenarios. A 200ml cup is suitable for personal use, while a 300- to 500ml cup is suitable for sharing with friends. A cup of 500ml or more is more appropriate for serving guests.
  • Other suggestions: The Elegant Brewing Cup has a mechanical structure, usually magnetic, to control the pouring of the tea. It is recommended that the structure be simple, easy to clean, and not easily damaged.

4.4 Others

  • Using the right tea brewing tools can enhance the aroma and taste of tea. There are many different tea brewing tools, some of which are designed for specific types of tea to bring out the best brewing effects. For example:

  • The glass pot specially designed for brewing green mandarin pu-erh has a top opening for placing the green mandarin pu-erh, and boiling water is poured from this opening, making it very convenient to extract the aroma of the tea leaves and mandarin peel. The transparent pot body also clarifies the brewing process and facilitates observing changes in the tea leaves.

In future blogs, we will introduce the characteristics and usage methods of these tea brewing tools individually, hoping to provide more knowledge and experience about tea brewing for tea enthusiasts.