The Gaiwan is a traditional Chinese tea brewing vessel comprised of three parts including the lid, bowl, and saucer. Translating literally to “lid and bowl,” the Gaiwan is most often made from porcelain and flourished during the Ming dynasty when loose leaf teas came into fashion.
The gaiwan is considered to be particularly good for brewing teas with delicate flavors and aromas, such as green tea and white tea. The versatility of the gaiwan is also noted in the preparation of oolong infusions because of this particular tea's ability to be infused multiple times, but the gaiwan is suitable for any type of tea.
The gaiwan is important in tea tasting due to its open and glazed surfaces: the former allows the tea to be viewed while brewing, and the latter prevents altering of the flavour and aroma of the tea during brewing. The lid of the gaiwan allows the tea to be infused right in the bowl and either be drunk right from the bowl (traditionally using the lid to block the leaves for ease of consumption), or decanted into another container.
Gaiwan is the preferred method for brewing green and white teas as the gaiwan's porcelain absorbs the heat and does not damage the tea. Gaiwans are less suitable for black teas as the large lid allows heat to escape too quickly during the steeping process. They are especially common in the north of China for enjoying scented teas like jasmine tea.