So what's the difference between Shiboridashi vs Gaiwan?
Shiboridashi vs gaiwan is a comparison a lot of people make, but which one is better for each type of tea? In this article, we are going to compare the two teapots and brewing styles and find the advantages and disadvantages of each one. We’ll also look at the similarities of both the shiboridashi and the gaiwan and see why they have both become so popular.
What is a shiboridashi?
A shiboridashi is a type of clay teapot with a very distinct design. Rather than having a lot of the bells and whistles you might notice on other teapots, the shiboridashi has a more minimalist design, with a simple wide and flat design and no handle.
What is the shiboridashi typically used for?
The shiboridashi excels at producing premium Japanese green tea like kabuse sencha and gyokuro. For special occasions, these teas are prepared with a very high leaf to water ratio, with 5 grams of leaves and 50ml of water. This creates a rich, concentrated infusion with a powerful flavor and a denser mouthfeel. You’re meant to not only savor the taste of the tea, but the texture as well, as it glides over the top of your tongue drop by drop.
What is a gaiwan
The name gaiwan essentially translates into “lidded bowl” and it is just that, a very simple piece of teaware that includes a lid, a bowl and a base.
This arose as a simple way to prepare tea in China, as farmers preferred to simply brew the tea in a lid and a bowl rather than buying a fancy teapot.
The gaiwan is still used by tea connoisseurs all around the world, as a simple piece of teaware that gives the brewer a lot of control over the tea.
What is the gaiwan typically used for?
The gaiwan works best for larger leaf Chinese tea, but can also work for smaller leaf teas. Teas like oolong, black tea and Chinese green tea work great in the gaiwan. The porcelain construction provides neutrality in the tea brewing process, as the flavor of the tea is unaffected by the smooth porcelain finish.
Shiboridashi vs gaiwan similarities
If you compare the shiboridashi vs gaiwan, you will notice some distinct similarities. For starters, each piece of teaware is simple, consisting of basically a lid and a bowl. Most shiboridashi do not have a complex filter or a dedicated handle, and the same is true for the gaiwan. Because both pieces of teaware consist of this lid and bowl design, a lot of people tend to compare the shiboridashi vs gaiwan, but make no mistake, the two teapots are very different. Let’s get into a few of the differences next.
Shiboridashi vs gaiwan size
One thing you will notice when comparing the size of the shiboridashi vs gaiwan is that the shiboridashi is much wider but also flatter. While there are a few larger gaiwans out there, they are usually quite small. The standard gaiwan size for individual brewing is around 100ml. Although the shiboridashi may appear to be larger, because of the flat design, the capacity tends to be quite low. This points to a major difference between the shiboridashi vs gaiwan.
Small water capacity
Although the gaiwan and the shiboridashi both are designed to brew tea with very little water, the shiboridashi is perhaps the most extreme. With the kyusu teapot, which is commonly used for most types of Japanese green tea, you would use 5 grams of leaves and 150ml of water.
The gaiwan, which is typically used for Chinese teas, produces significantly more concentrated infusions, with 5 grams of leaves and 100ml of water. The shiboridashi takes this a step further by preparing teas with 5 grams of leaves and only 50ml of water. This is something you will really only see done at high end tea shops. It is a way to truly get the best flavor out of a premium tea like gyokuro, but it really only produces a few drops of extremely flavorful tea. This method really produces a great tasting experience everyone should try at least once.
As mentioned before, one of the clear differences when comparing the shiboridashi vs gaiwan is the shape. The gaiwan is in the shape of a bowl and the shiboridashi is almost in the shape of a plate.
The gaiwan is designed to produce a clump or a ball of tea leaves, such as the ones you will find in an oolong tea. These leaves tend to expand in all directions, so it is important for the teapot to be more in a bowl shape. The gaiwan excels at preparing teas like oolong, which is composed of large tea leaves rolled into strip shapes or ball shapes.
When it comes to the shiboridashi, the teapot is normally meant to prepare thin needle shaped teas like Gyoukuro and sencha tea. These can lay very flat and expand horizontally, so you ideally want to lay out a blanket of the leaves at the base of a teapot, and pour the water over it. The shiboridashi allows you to do this by providing a large amount of horizontal space. You only need enough depth for the tea leaves to be barely submerged in water, so the flat design is fine. This design feature is one of the key differences between the shiboridashi vs kyusu.
Pouring and Finger Position
Although the basic design of both the gaiwan and the shiboridashi are about the same, they pour differently and they require different finger positions. Let’s discuss how to pour and hold each teapot, and what the strengths and weaknesses of each are.
Pouring the Shiboridashi
The shiboridashi is simple to pour. After you have have laid out your leaves, drizzled in the water and allowed the tea to sit for between 1-2 minutes, it is time to pour it out and enjoy your tea. Unlike the gaiwan, the shiboridashi has a spout that guides the stream of water in a particular direction. This is really helpful, especially when you are preparing such a small quantity of water, because it is very difficult to pour a gaiwan without spilling.
To pour out the shiboridashi, you simply place the lid back on and point the spout towards the tea cup you are pouring into. A simple tilt of the wrist should pour out a quick, consistent stream of flavorful green tea. The teapot should not spill, allowing you to ensure that all the precious tea ends up in the tea cup and not burning your fingers are ruining your table.
Pouring the Gaiwan
This is where skill comes into play. When you pour the gaiwan, you actually need to position the lid slightly off to create a gap between the lid and the bowl. This gap essentially becomes your filter, and you can set it to be narrower or wider depending on the type of tea you are preparing.
If you are preparing a larger leaf tea with your gaiwan, you can set a wider aperture between the lid and the bowl and get a much faster, more consistent pour. This is why the gaiwan works really well for larger leaf teas, as it allows the tea brewer to control how fast they want to pour and how much leaf material they want to let in. You may find that you actually want to allow some pieces of leaf material into the infusion, to create a richer and slightly more powerful flavor.
When it comes to preparing smaller leaf teas, you may run into some issues with the gaiwan. You will want to set a very tight aperture between the lid and the bowl to sift out the small leaf particles, but if you set it too tight it will take forever to pour. With a gaiwan, you typically want very fast infusions, so if the pour is too long it can be problematic. If the leaves stay in contact with the water for too long, the tea will over brew and become bitter.
Finger position for the shiboridashi vs gaiwan
The lid of the shiboridashi vs gaiwan is quite similar, a flat design with a small button on top. This does not necessarily mean that the finger position is the same, in fact it is quite different.
With the gaiwan, you will want three points of contact. Two fingers on either side of the gaiwan and one finger or knuckle on top. There are a few variations to this, but this is the basic idea. This is due to the fact that the sides and the top of the gaiwan are typically the coolest, and the base is the hottest, and can even burn your fingers if you touch it.
When you prepare gyokuro tea in a shiboridashi, you are using incredibly low temperature water, between 50-60 degrees. This means that you don’t need to worry about burned fingers, and you can pour with only 2 points of contact. Place 4 fingers at the base of the teapot and your thumb on top. This is a similar finger position to holding a sandwich, so the motion is much more familiar.
One use case for the gaiwan is actually to crush the dried tea leaves as you prepare them. This style of chazhou brewing originated as a way to extract more flavor from the leaves. This is discouraged for Japanese green tea, but sometimes encouraged for oolong teas. Oolong teas tend to have a perfumy, floral flavor in the first 2 infusions and only play on the heavier notes in the later infusions. A way to combine these two into a flavorful early infusion is by crushing the leaves slightly, which reveals more of the body of the tea.
There is a big difference in the filtering of the shiboridashi vs gaiwan. As we mentioned before, the shiboridashi actually does not have a filter. It is up to the person pouring the tea to filter out the leaves by positioning the lid and the bowl a certain way and holding it there.
With the shiboridashi, you get these subtle notches carved into the teapot that allow water to pass through, while still keeping the larger leaves in the teapot. Furthermore, the Shiboridashi that we have found includes a full mesh clay filter that works perfectly when it comes to filtering out smaller leaves like those found in sencha. If you need a proper filter when you are preparing tea, the gaiwan is not for you.
This is actually a similarity between the shiboridashi vs gaiwan. Both of these pieces of teaware do not have a handle, you just hold the teapot and pour it directly. This allows you a bit more freedom with how you pour, but it makes the finger position and pouring technique more important.
Where to buy a Shiboridashi?
You can shop for Shiboridashi on our website. We offer two types of Shiboridashi: one with a cup and the other without it. All our teaware are handcrafted by small Japanese artisans.
Our Tokoname Shiboridashi can’t be beat when it comes to brewing super flavorful cups of Gyokuro and sencha tea. The first thing you will notice when you look at this teapot is it’s much flatter shape, and it’s minimalist design. The tokoname shibooridashi is hand sculpted out of clay, and instead of a clay filter carved into the base, it has a few small notches towards the spout.
Shiboridashi Tea Set
The shiboridashi tea set comes with the shiboridashi teapot as well as 2 small gyokuro cups. When you drink gyokuro, you are meant to savor not only the taste, but also the texture of the tea. When you serve tea in small quantities like this, it forces you to slow down and savor every drop. The best way to create this experience is by using the shiboridashi teapot to brew the tea and serving it in the gyokuro tea cups.
Shiboridashi vs gaiwan final verdict
When comparing the shiboridashi vs gaiwan, it is difficult to say whether one is better or worse. There are certain advantages and disadvantages of each one, and it all comes down to what kind of tea you will be preparing.
If you prefer larger leaf teas like chinese green teas, oolong tea and black tea, the gaiwan is likely the better choice. If you prefer premium Japanese green teas like gyokuro and sencha, the shiboridashi is really going to hep you produce these rih, flavorful infusions.
- A Kyusu is a teapot with a side handled, a medium water capacity designed to produce larger cups of gyokuro, sencha, hojicha, Kamairicha, kukicha and more. Do you know what are the differences between the Shiboridashi vs Kyusu?
- Hohin, translated as “treasure bottle”, is designed to brew larger cups specialty teas, but can also be used to brew more common, everyday teas. Do you know what are the similarities between the Shiboridashi vs Hohin?