Back in 2009, I didn’t like oolongs. In general, anyway. There were some specific ones I liked, but most of them were off limits. I even explained this to Tony Tellin, lead blender extraordinaire at Smith Teamaker, when he was working the tea bar one day.

He said, “You’re probably not brewing them right.”

He escaped into the back and brought out a gaiwan (lidded Chinese teacup), and then he gave me a quick primer on how to do gongfu cha (literally, “brew tea with skill”). I had seen it done before, but it always intimidated me—multiple steeps, multiple pours, and the equipment required. He assured me that all I would need was a gaiwan, and to remember, “Short, successive steeps”.

Then he gave me his gaiwan.

oldest gaiwan

It’s  . . . seen a lot of use. By me.