I’ve been brewing tea with my tiny gaiwan lately and I have noticed a pattern. The tea seems to taste better than I remember it tasting in my slightly larger gaiwans. As it turns out, I just happen to have a much larger gaiwan that is the same material as my tiny one, which naturally made me want to do a comparison tasting. Does tea taste different based on the size of the gaiwan used to brew it in? I used the same tea, same leaf to water ratio, and the gaiwans were the same porcelain material.
The gaiwans used for this experiment are 160 ml and 60 ml. Doing some quick math using 5g of leaf per 100 ml of water ratio gives us 3 grams of leaf in the tiny gaiwan and 8 grams of leaf in the big boy.
I used 200 F water and the tea was Alishan Jin Xuan from Spiritwood Tea that I won in an IG giveaway.
The first infusion had quite a noticeable difference. I used the same glass as well to keep everything as similar as possible. As you can see the difference in liquor color is great. The tea from the large gaiwan was much hotter and had a bit thinner texture than the tiny one. The tiny gaiwan tea was thick and coated the whole mouth. I have a suspicion that the temperature is the main reason for the difference, so for the second infusion..
I poured the tea from the large gaiwan into a fairness pitcher, and poured the same amount of liquor into the cups, which in theory would give them a similar temperature. This did in fact change things quite a bit. Interestingly, the tea from the tiny gaiwan had more pronounced vegetal flavor notes, where the tea from the large gaiwan had more creamy notes to it. They had a similar texture and mouthfeel this time.
I am intrigued and for the third infusion, I went back to pouring the tea straight into the glass for both gaiwans. This time the flavors were pretty close, but the large gaiwan had more floral notes to it. The tiny gaiwan tea had a thicker texture to it but it also had more of a dry finish to it.
For the fourth infusion, I went back to using a fairness pitcher for the large gaiwan. This time, the teas were almost identical and I didn’t have a preference.
Do you ever notice that some teas tend to change their flavor quite a bit after they cool down in your cup? My hunch is that that is what’s happening here. With a tiny gaiwan of only 60ml, the liquor will cool down quite fast compared to something larger, even 100 ml but especially 160 ml.
Conclusion: Smaller is better, but using a fairness pitcher seemed to even things out.
I noticed some significant differences between the teas made in the different sized vessels. I am not convinced that the size itself was the main reason for the difference, though. I will need to do some experimenting with liquor temperature and time after brewing in the near future.
Have you ever tried these kind of tests? If so, what were your results? Please let me know if you have or your thoughts on why the teas would taste so different. I love to get nerdy with this stuff. Cheers!
Disclosure: Umi Tea Sets sent me a free gaiwan in exchange for linking to their site in the first paragraph.
2 thoughts on “Comparing The Effect of Different Sized Brewing Vessels”
My general feeling is that gong-fu doesn’t scale perfectly – on the whole my impression is that the same leaf/water ratio won’t result in the same quality when used in a bigger vessel. When I use one of the larger pots I usually bump the ratio up a bit, so that if I would have used 8 grams I’d use 10 instead, for example.
My guess is that it’s due in part to a larger surface area shedding heat more quickly – showering the pot helps, although that becomes less effective at longer infusion times. In my experience there’s also a fair bit of variance between different types of tea, with bigger leaf teas coping better, especially shengs.
Just my 2¢, and as always YMMV… 🙂
Interesting. I found that the brewed liquor cooled much fast from the small one just due to it being such a small volume.
I actually did the math wrong and used 9 grams the first time I tried it which resulted in the larger one being a much stronger brew.
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