Jan 15th 06 4:36 am
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gawain, Yixing

by Snow on Cedar » Jan 15th 06 4:36 am

Could someone explain these terms?

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Jan 15th 06 7:20 pm
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Location: The tea wasteland that is Utah

by Marlene » Jan 15th 06 7:20 pm

Gai Wan, Gai Bei, Cha Wan, and Cha Bei (all of which have different litteral translations), mean, roughly, tea cup or tea bowl.
They are usually 3 pieces, sometimes 2. A cup a lid and a small dish for under the cup, the dish being ommitted on occaion.
This is my favorite one.

Yixing is a provence in China where they make lovely teapots from zisha clay. Zisha can be most closely compared to terra cotta, but much much finer in grain. These pots are rarely glazed, so after many uses, they absorb the essence of the tea you brew in them. Very old and very well used ones are said to be so infused with the essence of tea, all you have to do is pour in some hot water. Most people recomend only useing one kind of tea per pot. What ever you do, never ever brew a flavored or scented tea in your yixing tea pot. you'll have jasmine scented tea for a month after, even when you're brewing puerh. :)
my yixing pot. i've ordered a new one, i'll have to post pics on by blog

Jan 16th 06 3:07 am
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by Mike in KY » Jan 16th 06 3:07 am

As Marlene said, an Yixing pot will absorb the tea oils. I tried using one for Assam tea for a while and I came to the conclusion that I prefer my Assam not to be made in an Yixing pot. It tasted a bit off, too strong or malty maybe, and interfered with the sweeter and fruity flavors of the tea. Also, since the pot only made 8oz, it was a lot of bother compared to other teaware. I wonder if the pots are more suited to preparing china blacks.

If you want more in depth info on Yixing pots and how to use them, a web search for "Yixing pots" will yield many interesting and well illustated sites.

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Jan 16th 06 6:04 am
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by Marlene » Jan 16th 06 6:04 am

I've found yixing pots to be best for china oolongs, and puerh. Blacks seem to brew up nicer in a regular pot for me. Greens and whites I generaly brew in my a gaiwan, provided I'm not being lazy and just use a regular pot for those too.
If you look into yixing pots very far, you'll see they are almost unerversaly small. They are excelent for multiple infusions, some teas can go for 10 or more infusions. With an 8 oz pot, that would be 80 ozs of tea! That's a lot of tea for one sitting. I've got one 8 ouncer for my oolongs, and just got a 5-6 ouncer for my puerhs. The smaller pot, the more infusions you can drink.
Mike, what did you do with your pot? Do you plan on continueing to use it?

Jan 16th 06 1:14 pm
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by Mike in KY » Jan 16th 06 1:14 pm

I actually have two, Marlene. The other is about half as big and has never been used. As for the one that has Assam residue, I thought I might try to re-season it with oolong. I'm not a big oolong fan, but then I never tried the higher end ones. I still have about a half pound of Ti Kuan Yin and some Anxi. I like the tea in Chinese reastaurants, and I haven't bought any loose oolong tea that really tastes as good.

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Jan 16th 06 7:28 pm
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by illium » Jan 16th 06 7:28 pm

Just as a reference, and to clear up any confusion about the Chinese langauge involved:

gai = covered
wan = bowl
bei = cup
cha = tea

So, to translate the examples already given, gai wan = covered bowl, gai bei = covered cup, cha wan = tea bowl, cha bei = tea cup.

The history of that naming goes as such... Originally, tea was made in, and drunk from a bowl, and just called cha wan. This is still the way tea is prepared and drunk in the Japanese tea ceremony, since it hasn't changed (much) in roughly a millenium.

At some point, people realized that if you put a cover on the bowl, it will not only hold the heat in better, but you can use it to keep the leaves from going into your mouth while you're drinking the tea, hence, the gai wan, or "covered bowl". The teabowl gradually shrank in diameter, bringing it's shape closer to a cup, and the saucer underneathe was added to catch any spills from the lip of the cup, and to prevent burnt fingers when the cup got heated up.

Why didn't they change the name to gai bei when the shape changed? I have no idea... probably because the change was too gradual over too long a time. Why do we call the dish under a tea cup a "saucer"? It doesn't hold any sauce. Why do you drive on a parkway and park in a driveway?

Anyhow, in modern China, people use the term cha bei to refer to the smaller handleless cups that you're probably familiar with from Chinese restaurants. A gai bei is shaped like a tall mug, with a lid that fits over the edge of the cup (as opposed to the gai wan, where the lid fits inside the fluted mouth of the cup/bowl).

Oddly enough, gai wan are not widely used in China these days. In certain restaurants, teahouses, and in some places (like Si Chuan province) you'll see them still in use, but for the day-today drinking, other methods are more prevalent.

Generally the methods for preparing tea are: in a midsized glass pot, with cha bei (for a group), in a gai bei (for your normal morning tea in the office), or by the gong fu method for fine teas. Actually, by far the MOST common method is a plastic tea bottle, with a small strainer imbedded in the mouth. These can hold a lot of water. Just toss the dry leaves in the bottom, fill 'er up from the water machine's hot tap, and take off for the day. Fill up as needed since there's a hot water machine literally anywhere you go. For entertaining house/office guests while thier waiting, paper cups with a few leaves tossed in the bottom is the casual, informal method.

As for the yi xing pots... Yi Xing is a place in China, but not a province. It's a city and county in Jiang Su province in south-eastern China. This is where the mineral deposits used to make the pots are drawn from, and where they are made. the translation of zi sha is also widely misunderstood.

Zi means purple, and sha means sand (or dust depending on context). zi sha then means purple sand. The real zi sha pots are made by grinding a certain kind of stone, high in mineral deposits into a paste. The paste ends up with a purple colour.

Actually, there are many colours of stone used in this manner, and thus many colours of yi xing pots. The most common ones are purple, green, and yellow pots. One of the ways to identify a real pot is by it's gritty, sandy, surface texture. Another way is by tapping it hear the ringing sound it makes. The stone-paste "clay" is much more dense and rigid than clay, so it has a more resonant and ringing tone than clay, or clay mixed with mineral sand (the two most common materials used for fake pots). Also, the smell and flavour of the heated pots is a dead give away.

Here are some English language webpages about Yi Xing pots:

(this one shows the method for making them!)


Hope that helps,