Japanese Teaware - Teapots and Brewing Equipment
Kyusu simply means ‘teapot’ in Japanese. Kyusus are usually made of clay or porcelain, with a handle either positioned at the side at 90 degrees from the spout (yokode no kyusu), or at the back (atode no kyusu). The side handled variety is used to brew most Japanese teas, such as sencha, genmaicha, kukicha and hojicha, and the kyusu with a handle at the back is usually used for brewing non-Japanese teas. Inside there is a strainer in front of the spout, either made of a metal mesh or a number of holes in the wall of the clay. Generally a kyusu with a basket strainer inside is considered to be less effective at extracting the best flavour from the tea, as the tealeaves do not have as much space to unfurl while infusing.
The Houhin is a small teapot with no handle made of porcelain, used for brewing gyokuro or very high quality sencha. These types of tea are brewed at low temperatures, around 55 or 60 degrees, so do not require a side handle to prevent fingers from burning. Houhin teapots were developed before the kyusu, its shape having developed from the Chinese gaiwan, the most simple type of teapot consisting of a cup with a lid sitting on a small plate. Houhins usually have a wide triangular shaped spout and a mesh metal filter inside.
The shiboridashi is a more simple version of a houhin, with linear grooves carved into the clay to filter the tea liquor from the leaves when poured. This style predates the houhin, and also does not have a handle, but now sometimes seen with a side handle. Shiboridashi teapots are usually small in capacity, and used for brewing high quality sencha and gyokuro.
The dobin, literally ‘earthen bottle’, is a large teapot with a handle at the top, bigger than a kyusu. It is used to serve tea to a larger number of people, mostly bancha and hojicha. Most dobins have a basket mesh filter or a rough ceramic filter at the spout.
Yunomi is the name for a traditional Japanese teacup. A yunomi has no handle, and is usually taller than it is wide. It is distinctively smaller than a Western style cup and is often decorated in various colours and patterns.
A yuzamashi is used to cool water down for brewing tea by transferring water to and from the teapot. Some Japanese teas are brewed at a very low temperature, and each time the water is poured to and from the yuzamashi it cools by around ten degrees. Yuzamashis can also be used for equally distributing tea between a number of cups so that each cup has the same flavour. Usually made from porcelain, some yuzamashis have a handle, and others are shaped more like a pitcher with no handle.
A tetsubin is a large kettle made of cast iron. They are used to heat up water, or to keep the water hot before being transferred into a teapot. It has been said that drinking a lot of tea can reduce the body’s absorption of iron, so some may choose to heat water in an iron tetsubin as a way of negating this effect.
Tea utensils, chadogu, are used in the tea ceremony, chado, known as the "way of tea".
A matcha tea bowl is known as a chawan, used to prepare the matcha in and to drink from. Matcha bowls often have some form of decoration or drawing on the side, which the host preparing the matcha will position to face outwards facing the guest, so they can see it whilst the matcha is being prepared. Chawans used in the winter have a thick rim and high sides to keep in the heat, while summer chawans have a wider lip to allow the matcha to cool.
The chasen is a bamboo whisk used to prepare matcha, and is essential for achieving a smooth layer of foam. It is made from a singular piece of bamboo that has been carefully carved by hand to create between 60 and 120 fine prongs. The higher the number of prongs the easier it is to create an even, frothy layer of bubbles. The number of prongs does not necessarily indicate that the chasen is of a higher quality, however, as the various tea ceremony schools differ in opinion on the desirable amount of foam.
A chashaku is a bamboo scoop used to measure the correct amount of matcha powder into the bowl. Like a chasen, it is carved from one piece of bamboo, and can vary in colour due to the type of manufacturing method used by the craftsman. The bamboo is sometimes smoked or roasted to create a darker finish. Two heaped scoops of powder using the chashaku is the perfect amount to make a bowl of matcha.
A natsume is a small tea caddy used to store matcha powder. Carved from wood and coated in a shiny lacquer, natsumes often feature painted or carved designs and are formed in an acorn-like shape.
The chakin is a small white rectangular cloth used to dry and clean the matcha bowl during the tea ceremony. It is usually made of linen or hemp, and is neatly folded into a square.