What kind of pots do I need to brew Chinese tea?

There are hundreds of different types of cups, teapots and tea brewing tools out there for you to enjoy. Find out below what you really need to brew Chinese tea, and how to navigate the confusing world of Chinese tea accessories.

Grandpa style

What's fast becoming known as 'grandpa style' tea brewing is the most simple, old-fashioned way of brewing tea possible. All you need is your favourite old mug, and.... that's it! At its simplest, brewing a cup of Chinese tea means just throwing a pinch of tea leaves into a mug and adding hot water (just off-the-boil works for most teas).

  • Benefits? Fast, easy for the office or busy home, works fine for most teas.
  • Drawbacks? Doesn't produce the finest brew, some teas can get bitter if stewed too long. Getting tea leaves stuck in your teeth.

A simple teapot

If you want to brew your teas a little bit more professionally, then either dig out that old teapot, or invest in a new one. To start with, you don't need anything particular - a slightly smaller teapot works better for Chinese teas, which tend to enjoy faster, repeat brews in less water (compared to long steeps in a large body of water). 

  • Benefits? Slightly better brew, no oversteeping and bitterness.
  • Drawbacks? Cumbersome perhaps, whole process becomes a bit longer.

The full Chinese gong fu teaset

So you've decided to go all out and invest in a full Chinese tea set? Typically, you should have these things in your set:

  • A mini teapot (茶壶, cha hu) or gai wan (盖碗)
  • A serving bowl (茶海, cha hai)
  • A filter or strainer (滤清器, lv qing qi)
  • Small thimble cups (茶杯, cha bei)
  • [Optional] Tea table (茶桌, cha zhuo)
  • [Optional] Tea pincers (镊子, nie zi)

The whole gong fu tea ceremony in China tends to be quite relaxed and informal, emphasizing the practical and social elements of enjoying tea, so don't be overwhelmed if you haven't used this type of set before.

Normally, you put your tea leaves in the teapot, add water, and then strain it into a separate serving bowl (the 茶海, cha hai). From here, you'll pour the tea into the small thimble cups to serve your guests or yourself. You'll need to keep rebrewing fairly quickly, as the cups and pots are all quite small!

If you have a small tea table, it's function is decorative, but also it should have a small hole and drainage pipe - this helps you remove the worry of spilled water (which is inevitable) and drains water into a bucket or drain.

  • Benefits? Enjoyable, social, gets the best taste from your tea.
  • Drawbacks? Time consuming, not practical all the time, a bit messy too!