The art of brewing tea has a long history in Japanese culture and traditions. Tea is more than simply a beverage to enjoy – it is the starting point for the way to live your life. As described in Kakuzo Okakura’s iconic The Book of Tea, “[t]ea is a work of art and needs a master hand to bring out its noblest qualities”. Traditional methods of brewing tea in Japan can be as intricate, complicated and engrossing as The Way of Tea, (known in the West also as the Japanese Tea Ceremony), or as simplistic and accessible as brewing tea in a Kyusu Teapot.
Tokoname Kyusu Teapots
The Tokoname Kyusu Teapot is an integral part of Japanese tea history and culture, extending into ceramic craft, and functional art. At SILK ROAD, we admire the skill and craftsmanship that is required to make the Kyusu – a small clay teapot, large enough for one or two cups of green tea, with the handle positioned on the side of the pot.
Tokoname, a coastal region located in the Aichi Prefecture of central Japan, is renown for its clay that goes by the same name. With this Tokoname clay, some of Japan’s most exquisite Kyusu teapots are made. Kyusu consist of five individual ceramic parts that must be skillfully molded together: body, spout, handle, lid, and strainer. Utmost precision is required to create these delicate teapots.
Clay comes from the earth and is thought to play an active role in the process of brewing green tea in Japan. Think of clay as living, organic material that influences the brewing process – good quality clay creates a positive, dynamic, alchemical interaction with the brewing green tea. Its mineral composition has an alkaline effect on brewed tea, and naturally enhances a sweetness that is present in the tea, which results in a desirable favour. Sweet and bitter flavour combinations are particularly appreciated within Japanese cuisine.
The length of time that a teapot remains hot is dependant on the weight and thickness of its clay. Tokoname clay is especially fine and thin; therefore it does not retain heat for long durations, which is ideal for green tea as it requires a relatively low water temperature for brewing. If the Kyusu retained heat for too long, it could over-heat the tea causing an undesirable change in flavour.
The porous nature of clay allows for greater oxygenation during brewing which enhances the flavour of the tea, while seasoning the Kyusu after multiple uses. The flavour of your tea will linger, trapped within the porous clay. It is best to use one type of tea in your Kyusu, to season the interior with the same flavour, and to avoid confusing your palate. The more the Kyusu is used, the better and more unique to the owner it becomes; a functioning record of use and enjoyment.