How to Make Loose Leaf Oolong Tea in a Gai Wan

Bi Luo Chung Spring Tea 2011.

For those use to single cup coffee makers and tea bags, making loose leaf tea can be a daunting task. What should it be made in? How much leaf should be used? What temperature water? How long should it steep? These are just some of the questions that cause people to avoid making loose leaf tea. For a detailed how to and an answer to many of these questions, and more, read our previous blog entry on brewing loose leaf tea here.

Often people get bogged down in the details and miss the big picture. Making loose leaf tea can be as simple as adding hot water to dry tea leaves. One of the simplest ways to make loose leaf tea is in a Gai Wan. A Gai Wan, literally translated as “lidded bowl”, is a traditional Chinese tea brewing vessel dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644). A Gai Wan is not necessarily the easiest vessel to brew tea in for a beginner (it requires both practice and dexterity to strain through a small gap between the lid and bowl), we are using it here because it exemplifies the simplicity of loose leaf brewing. Like any other teapot, it is simply a confined space for the tea leaves and the hot water to mingle.

Oolong tea, on the other hand, is a great choice for beginner loose leaf tea makers. Its flavor is more forgiving than green or black teas. Oolong, a semi-oxidized tea, tends to have a smooth and sweet flavor which, when over brewed, can still be pleasant and enjoyable as opposed to the intense bitterness that can result from over steeped green or black tea. Oolong tea is also less finicky about water temperature. For the most part, boiling water can be used for both the first infusion and all subsequent infusions.

Here is a brief video showing the process of brewing loose leaf oolong tea in a Gai Wan. The concept is to show the big picture of how simple brewing loose leaf tea can be. Becoming comfortable with the idea and process of brewing loose leaf tea is the key. Remember, the details can always be fine tuned, and in fact, most tea masters would probably agree that the fine tuning over the course of a lifetime of tea drinking is where much of the joy can be found.

So, if you are intimidated by loose leaf tea, don’t be, it’s easy!

If you would like a Gai Wan for your home, visit our online tea store and scroll down.

For more videos, visit Stone Leaf Teahouse’s Youtube Channel

About the Author

matthew frayer

An avid traveler, reluctant adventurer, and a lover of all things tea.

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