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Which is better for brewing tea, Gaiwan or Purple Clay Teapot/Yixing Teapot?

Should we use a Gaiwan or Purple Clay Teapot/Yixing Teapot when brewing tea?

We have encountered too many similar questions in life and online discussions. Each has unique considerations and compelling reasons that are hard to resist.

As avid tea enthusiasts, we've had the pleasure of using a variety of Purple Clay teapots and Gaiwans. They've become integral to our daily tea rituals, each offering a unique brewing experience.

Based on our years of experience, we have sorted out the characteristics of these two essential brewing tools, hoping that our knowledge can help you make a suitable choice.

Gaiwan - Perfect for all tea types
Gaiwan - Perfect for all tea types

1. The characteristics of Gaiwan and Purple Clay Teapot

1.1 Characteristics of Purple Clay Teapot

  • Good heat preservation. Compared with the Gaiwan, the purple clay teapot's spout is small, the lid is sealed, and heat dissipation is slow. Therefore, the purple clay teapot is more suitable for brewing aged tea, such as aged Pu'er, aged white tea, and Fu tea, which can intensify the fragrance better.

  • Easy to absorb flavors. Due to the particular double-pore structure of the purple clay mud (the purple clay mud is fired and belongs to pottery, the surface is not glazed, and there are fine air vents in the pot body), it can absorb the fragrance of tea. The brewed tea flavor has a more potent fragrance and a distinct mellow feeling. But this feature can also easily cause miscellaneous flavors. Therefore, the purple clay teapot emphasizes " one pot for one tea. " Especially for teas with pronounced differences in fragrance, it is unsuitable to be brewed with the same purple clay teapot. For example, if highly fragrant oolong tea and thick-tasting ripe Pu'er are brewed with the same purple clay teapot, it will cause flavor mixing and affect the taste.

Purple clay teapot, the favorite of advanced practitioners.
Purple clay teapot - The favorite of advanced practitioners.

  • You need to have a good understanding of tea brewing techniques. The purple clay teapot has relatively high requirements for the user to understand tea brewing skills. The state of the tea in the pot can not be directly observed, and the lid opening is also tiny and not easy to observe.

  • It is convenient for brewing , will not scald hands, and the operation is simple.

  • The purple clay teapot must be maintained , which requires patience and skills.

1.2 Characteristics of Gaiwan

  • It doesn't retain the flavor . Because the porcelain Gaiwan has a tight layer of glaze that does not adsorb the flavor, white porcelain can retain the purest taste of the tea, and it is easier to smell the original fragrance.

  • The largemouth cover needs better heat preservation and is challenging to infuse fully. It is more suitable for brewing new tea and tender tea leaves, such as Pu'er and black tea, with a relatively high grade of original leaves.

  • Unlike the purple clay teapot, where different teapots are suitable for other teas, the Gaiwan has a wide range of applicability, and there is no need to worry about flavor mixing. It is straightforward to observe the tea brewing situation.

  • The Gaiwan is simple, quick to clean, and easy to maintain.

  • Because the Gaiwan doesn't have a handle like a teapot, it is easy to get burned when brewing.


2. The brewing comparison between purple clay teapot and Gaiwan

  • Under the same conditions, the purple clay teapot's characteristics of solid heat preservation and slow heat dissipation can help the tea release the dissolved substances better and bring out the tea's nature more, reflecting the tea flavor. The tea taste brewed is more mellow. The purple clay teapot has a specific adsorptive property, and the stability of the tea soup tastes better, and the mellow feeling is better than that of the Gaiwan.

  • When brewing tea with a Gaiwan, the brewing temperature is easy to control, and it is easy to control the rhythm of brewing and pouring out the soup. The angle and position of water injection, as well as the size and intensity of the water flow, are all as one wishes. It is easy to observe, such as tea color, tea soup color, and tea leaves at the bottom, and it is convenient to maintain. Brewing with a Gaiwan reduces the influence of utensils on the mellow degree of the tea soup to a certain extent, and it is more suitable for tea evaluation.


3. Selecting according to tea types

3.1 The Gaiwan can be used to brew any tea.

Green, black, and yellow teas are suitable for brewing with a Gaiwan. They have a sweet and mellow taste and an unmistakable tea fragrance.

When brewing highly fragrant teas, it is best to use a white porcelain Gaiwan. Because the white porcelain material does not absorb the tea fragrance, it can perfectly present the rich and changeable aroma of the tea.

White tea in Gaiwan
White Peony tea in the Gaiwan

Another example is green tea, which can be brewed with white porcelain Gaiwan. When brewing, pay attention to the control of the water temperature. Generally, it can be controlled at about 90°C. Fixed-point water injection and quick water discharge can make you feel green tea's fresh and refreshing taste.


3.2 The purple clay teapot is more suitable for brewing oolong, dark, and Pu'er tea.

Because these teas require high-temperature brewing, the purple clay teapot has a good heat preservation effect. Brewing with a purple clay teapot can make the tea fragrance rich and lasting. At the same time, it does not lose the essence of the tea and can better show its aged fragrance charm.
Brewing Tieguanyin with a purple clay teapot
Brewing Tie Guan Yin with a purple clay teapot

The purple clay teapot is not recommended for brewing green and black tea. An essential aspect of green tea tasting is observing the tender tea leaves stretching in the water and the temperature requirement not being too hot. If you use a purple clay teapot, it is impossible to observe the clarity and stretching of the tea leaves and the tea soup, and it is straightforward to make the green tea bitter and astringent. If black tea is brewed with a purple clay teapot. In that case, releasing too many tannin substances in the tea is very easy due to the relatively high temperature and long brewing time, resulting in a bitter and astringent taste.

4. Conclusion

Overall, the Gaiwan and the purple clay teapot have their advantages.

Suppose you want to evaluate the quality of the tea. In that case, it is best to choose the Gaiwan, which can not only not affect the original flavor of the tea but also be convenient for smelling the fragrance and observing the tea base. If you want to drink good tea, you can choose the purple clay teapot with solid heat preservation, and the tea soup will be more mellow.

We hope you found today's blog informative and helpful. We're always here for you, so if you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below or email the author directly at info@orientaleaf.com. Join our mailing list for tea updates and the latest promotions! 


Orientaleaf - We only sell what we drink and love.

Author: Cary Woo-Orientaleaf

Author: Cary Woo

Cary Woo has been working in the tea industry for over 10 years and has run a tea house for over 6 years, serving thousands of tea enthusiasts each year. He has a deep passion for various types of Chinese tea and is also the operator of Orientaleaf. He advocates for Orientaleaf's business philosophy: "We only sell tea that we have personally enjoyed and believe to be of high quality." He hopes to make the beauty of Chinese tea accessible to tea enthusiasts worldwide through simple means.

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