A good tea person will always be ready to adapt his or her tea making technique as circumstances dictate, and this is never more true as when you’re away from home.
On this trip I’d planned to take along one of my smaller gaiwans and a similarly sized tea pitcher, but for reasons I’m at a loss to explain I found myself sat on an aeroplane without them.
I had absolutely no intention of submitting to the wicked ways of the teabag for the entire duration of this trip, so it was clear that I was going to have to improvise.
Thankfully inspiration struck and a solution was found, and all for the princely sum of £2.
Finding tea itself presented no problem. I was in Lincoln, back on my old stomping ground, and so headed down the high street to the Golden Leaf Chinese supermarket, where I scored for a 180g tin of Golden Sail brand shou Pu-erh, and a 125g packet of Sea Dyke brand Oolong, more than enough to last me the 2 weeks we are going to be away.
Neither of these teas are ever going to win plaudits or awards, but are good enough, quite drinkable teas. If you’re in full-blown connoisseur mode you might turn your nose up, but when you’re out travelling and just want something for casual drinking they tick all the right boxes as far as I’m concerned.
Now I just had to find a way to brew them.
In the end the solution was both cheap and simple. In British budget store Poundland I found 2 ceramic cream jugs, for, surprisingly enough, £1 each. Cream jugs as you probably know bear more than a passing resemblance to a Chinese tea pitcher (gong dao bei / cha hai).
The idea was to use the jugs in tandem – brew up in one as with a gaiwan, and then decant into the other for serving. The capacity of the jugs was roughly the same as a gaiwan, so the amount of tea and associated timings normally used with a gaiwan should, in theory, work straight out of the box.
The tricky problem of separating tea leaves and tea liquor was accomplished by inserting a dessert spoon into the business end of the “gaiwan” jug. This acted as a kind of surrogate gaiwan lid, and allowed the tea to flow into the serving jug while keeping the leaves in the “gaiwan” jug. Hopefully the picture will make it clear what I mean.
Well, I can happily report that this ad hoc system works very well indeed. The Two Jugs and a Spoon technique is a resounding success!