Why Use Small Brewing Devices?

Zachery Wolf

When people see my set up for brewing tea they usually give my tiny brewing vessels - gaiwans and clay pots - a sideways glance.

At first glance they seem - maybe not pointless - but excessively quaint to one not acquainted with the higher tea to water ratio of brewing. As I fell down the rabbit hole of loose leaf tea I quickly turned from a huge sixteen ounce steeping mug to a five ounce gaiwan. Most loose leaf enthusiasts quickly switch the way I did here. There are a few important reasons.

The first reason is to fully enjoy the tea. Once you start hoarding good tea you will probably be advised to switch to a heavier dosage of tea and more steeps - a brewing style I detail in my brewing guide. Technically this style does scale up - I make this clear by listing a single gram per amount of water - but when you have a 16 ounce brewer you are going to be flying through your stash of tea leaves as well as simply drinking a lot of tea in one sitting because that larger brewing vessel is made in mind with the fact that the drinker is steeping two to three times with small amount of leaves. So you would both be using too much tea leaves and end up drinking large amounts of liquid to get to where the tea had given its all.

Which leads into the next point: you would be having so much caffeine! Even for caffeine tolerant people if you are trying to try lots of tea in one day too much caffeine can cause dizziness and high body temperature.

The smaller the vessel the quicker you can go through your session. Your steeped tea cools down quick and you have less liquid to drink through making the session more manageable. You can still space your session over a few hours and might find that drinking 100ml of liquid instead of 400ml - even if this is once an hour throughout your day - is more manageable.

If you are infatuated with tea you will definitely want multiple teas in one day if your schedule fits. If speed is a concern then a smaller vessel will get show you the full spectrum of the tea better.

There is also less palate fatigue. Even within a session a large vessel can make a single steeping of tea rather boring. Once you have had enough of a single steep it can be a bit harder to look forward to the next one and taste your best. The more of a single steep you drink the harder a time you can have comparing the tea across the session as a whole.

A smaller point is how much you would pee. This ties into how many other tiny annoyances can add up throughout a long, tea guzzling session and artificially inflate your tea time.

Some of these points make it seem as if I value speed and efficiency over all else. Although that has become an increasingly more important aspect of my tea sessions I include these points because they can make the whole session more boring. Instead of being weighed down by the negatives listed above, a smaller vessel allows me to spend time pausing in between steeps, savoring the aftertaste and meditating on the effects and influence the tea has on my body. Hypothetically I could still be spending the equivalent amount of time brewing with a small vessel than a large but I am enjoying it all the more. I also think that a session where you fly through 10 or more steeps in a short amount of time has its own merits.

Eventually I graduated my five ounce gaiwan to a three and a half ounce gaiwan and no tea pots bigger than three ounce. This is not to say that I never pull out a large teapot or teabag, but I would want to attempt a more focused, high leaf to water ratio session if I have the time and I feel that is best with a small vessel.

Zachery Wolf