You may have heard of a Piao Yi teapot. You may not. If you love gong fu cha but don’t love carrying a gaiwan round with you, or even bringing out the gaiwan and tea tray every time you want a quick brew, then a Piao Yi might be just the thing for you!
We all love gong fu cha. Preparing tea properly, mindfully and in the way it tastes best is just, well, a no-brainer.
But it’s not always uber-practical, right? Let’s face it, taking the gaiwan & tea tray to work and setting it up at your desk probably isn’t the way to make make friends of colleagues. Or your boss.
So, to make gong fu cha more accessible, portable and modern, some clever chaps in China invented the Piao Yi teapot, which you might also find labelled “Press Art Teapot” or “Gong Fu Teapot”.
They’re awesome AF and allow fuss & mess-free gong fu tea.
What is Gong Fu Cha?
In a practical sense, gong fu cha is (arguably) the best way to prepare tea to showcase it properly. We’ll take a more in depth look at the gong fu cha ceremony in another post but the basics are below.
You tend to use a higher quantity of leaves and steep for a short time using a gaiwan – a lidded bowl usually around 150ml-200ml in volume in which you put the leaves and your hot water, leave to steep and then strain into a jug.
Using more leaves, less water and a shorter steep you’ll generally get more infusions from the leaves, and with each infusion you’ll get different flavours / aromas / highlights coming out of the tea.
Our Phoenix Black tea, for instance, delivers malt, mango, melon, lychee, maple syrup to start with and eases into apricot, honey and light stone fruit with further infusions. Amazing!
By infusing more tea for shorter times you’re taking cross-sections of the flavour with each infusion, rather than steeping all the flavour out in one go.
So what is a Piao Yi?
Well, as mentioned, a Piao Yi is a way of preparing gong fu tea. The elements of the gaiwan, filter and jug are recreated in a single teapot in a way that lets you steep your tea to perfection then simply release the liquor into the jug, ready to pour.
Unlike a regular teapot where the water sits in the main pot and the leaves are added to it in a strainer, which you then remove, a Piao Yi teapot consists of a jug with an infuser basket suspended inside that holds the leaves and the water to steep together. When you’re ready you’ll press a button or lever to release the infused tea into the jug below, ready to pour into your cups.
See our premium BPA free borosilicate glass piao yi teapot with glass infuser & stainless steel strainer in action. Oh yeah!
Why is a Piao Yi better than a regular infuser teapot?
Whilst a Piao Yi has many benefits over an infuser teapot for gong fu style preparation, it’s not right for all situations.
For larger leaf teas it certainly benefits from the below:
Because the infuser basket contains only around 200ml – 250ml capacity, you can use smaller amounts of water than you generally would for a regular infuser teapot, meaning you have more control over the infusion.
As mentioned before, by using more leaves with less water and infusing for less time, you will get a “cross-section” of flavour of the tea. Quality tea is a complex little beauty whose flavour changes with different infusions. By using this method you’ll find hidden depths to your tea that you just don’t get in a larger teapot.
Mess / fuss-free
Let’s face it, using a gaiwan and a tea tray isn’t always the most practical. With a piao yi teapot you simply shake out the leaves into a bin (or, ideally a compost bin or other way to reuse the leaves to fertilise plants, as tea is GREAT as a fertiliser!) then rinse out the basket and you’re done.
Our premium piao yi also has a drip-free spout for minimum wastage and a clean, dry prep area!
The temperature of your water and brewing receptacle can pretty much nadger the best attempts to get the most out of your tea. The bigger the teapot and larger the amount of water used the lower the control over the temperature and what’s happening in there. Of course you’ll warm your teapot before you do anything (like Granny always told you to), but still…
It’s funky AF
Piao yi teapots are just funky AF. The same folks that would call you “tea wanker” for bringing a gaiwan to work would marvel at your piao yi.
Watch the magic happen when you press that button.
When an infuser teapot is better than a piao yi
All the above being said, the piao yi isn’t for ubiquitous use. Like all things it has its place. And that place is generally for larger leaf loose teas. It’s wasted on:
- Teabags (do we really need to explain?)
- Commodity tea / fannings – they could get stuck in the filter and cause you an unnecessary pain in the a*se that you just don’t need. Also, why would you?
- Bigger brews – if you’re mashing a round of breakfast tea, or even green tea, for your mates / family / team, then an infuser teapot is likely going to be the best approach.
Remember, you don’t need loads of fancy equipment for brewing quality tea. Whilst these things can help really get the most from your tea we don’t want people to think they need them and to be put off quality loose tea. You really don’t need them – check out our Tea Hacks for easy ways to prepare awesome loose tea with no specialist equipment!