My Gongfu Tea Time Is Missing Its Chahai!

Acquiring some Yixing teapots started me looking into the whole Gongfu Tea Time thing, except that there was a part that hubby and I overlooked: the chahai! Unbeknownst to us, though, we had come up with our own version without even realizing it.

First, we need to back up a bit. What’s a chahai? Well, if you’re on Facebook and friends with tea folks, you’ve probably seen these cute little glass pitchers full of the steeped liquid sitting beside a little Yixing teapot or sometimes with the teapot tipped inside it so the spout is pointing down, allowing the tea to drain into the little pitcher. The little glass pitcher is the chahai, which means fairly literally “sea of tea.” Not all of them are glass. Some are ceramic, porcelain, etc.

A tea set with a white gaiwan, a glass chahai, and 2 glass sipping cups on a bamboo tea tray
A tea set with a white gaiwan, a glass chahai, and 2 glass sipping cups on a bamboo tea tray

People who do a lot of gongfu style tea steeping, where they steep a small amount of liquid using a sizable amount of tea leaves and repeat it several times, are discovering this little marvel. The main reason is to assure that when the tea liquid is served up, it is even. That is, no one gets the weaker top liquid while others get the stronger bottom liquid where the substances that have infused out of the tea leaves have settled. I’ve also found from personal experience that pouring from those cute little Yixing teapots is tricky, and I usually end up with a bit of spillage.

That’s why hubby and I naturally gravitated to using our own version of a chahai, since we don’t have an official one (yet). When the tea is steeped, we pour it into a glass measuring cup, assuring spillage-free pouring and an even serving out of the tea liquid, neither of us getting tea that is too weak nor too strong. We also want to be sure that none of the liquid stays in the pot when the steeping time is done so that it doesn’t continue to steep and so that the teapot is ready for the next infusion. Since each of the teapots is a different size, we usually have more in them than will fit into our two little sipping cups. No worries, since it stays safe in the chahai substitute (the measuring cup) until needed.

One thing we do when steeping tea in a regular ceramic teapot is to straing it into a second teapot. That’s sort of how the use of chahais began, with folks pouring the tea liquid into an empty teapot. Having a glass chahai just gives you a chance to enjoy the visual of the tea liquid — often quite an enjoyable sight!

Someday, we’ll add a chahai to our “Tea Gang,” but for now that measuring cup will do just fine.

See also:
Diving Into the World of Yixing Teapots Pt 1
Diving Into the World of Yixing Teapots Pt 2
Diving Into the World of Yixing Teapots Pt 3

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6 thoughts on “My Gongfu Tea Time Is Missing Its Chahai!

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  6. James Kennedy

    This is by far the best way to taste tea! The gaiwan allows you to control the brewing time (provided you don’t burn your hands) and adjust the time according to your preferred taste. I use this type of tea set daily while sitting, reading books.

    I’ve also known the chahai to be called a 公正杯 (or Justice Cup). Maybe the shapes are a little different.

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