Gaiwans are the first and most useful tool for practicing Gong Fu Cha, because they are suitable for steeping any kind of tea, and they give the pourer a variety of ways to monitor the tea as it steeps. This ancient tea steeping vessel dates back to the Ming Dynasty, when the drinking of steeped whole-leaf tea began in earnest. Previously, people in China drank powdered, whisked tea from bowls called chá wǎn 茶碗 ("tea bowls"). To make them suitable for steeping leaves, they simply added a lid (gài 蓋) to their tea bowls to create the "lid bowl" or gàiwǎn 蓋碗, a classic and elegant vessel. Traditionally people would drink directly out of them and use the lid to strain the leaves as they drink. The gaiwan has become an indispensable tool in Gong Fu Cha for its simplicity and versatility. The video below will show you how to use one.