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Green tea is one of the most admired teas in the world. It comes handy with a wide range of vitamin, antioxidants and some other beneficial nutrients that are ideal for human health. However, the tea follows a systematic process just from preparation to savouring. Numerous accessories and teawares play different roles in making all the processes successful. At the centre of these items are the Chawan bowls.

More About Chawan Tea Bowls ▼

Chawan bowls refer to the types of bowls that are used to savour matcha drinks mostly in the Japanese tea ceremony. It comes in different sizes, shapes and designs. A typical Chawan bowl is the alternative for the widely used Yunomi cup. However, the two do not look the same. Unlike Yunomi cups that are tall with a small foot, a Chawan bowl is short with a wide foot—almost the opposite of each other.

 

History of the Chawan Bowl

The rich historical record of Chawan lies in China where it was discovered before it spread to other parts of the world.  Unlike in Japan, the use of tea for medicinal purposes and later refreshments began as early as the 4th century. At that time, poor tea preparation techniques of infusion in boiling water were evident. Tea drinkers who happened to be monks, royal personalities and warriors drunk the tea straight from the pot. 

The inception of tea culture in Japan took place in the 9th century by two monks who happened to go to China to study religion. Kukai and Saicho—the two Japanese monks—were the first to plant the seeds of tea plants in Japan. They were also the first to use the word Cha no yu, a term used in Japan to refer to the art of tea. 

Three years down the line, the introduction of tea competitions in Japan hit the tea culture with a bang. This was accompanied by the traditional tea ceremonies. The need for standard cups or bowls that could be used during the ceremony leads to the discovery of the first Chawan teacups. Tenmoku style cups played these important roles in both China and Japan for centuries.  These type of teacups were iron glazed and were evident mostly during the stone age period. Tenmoku was a name derived from a famous Chinese temple in “Tiamun Mountains” that means Heaven’s eye in English. 

However,  Tenmokku styled tea cups became so prominent during the Kamakura period (1185-1333). This is when the Japanese became so much interested in the art of tea.  The discovery of Tenmoku Chawan led to the invention of teacups with varied shapes, designs and colours. The tapered-shaped Seto Tenmoku teacup was the most popular during the century. This was closely followed by Ido Chawan which rose during the Muromachi period which was of Korean prefecture.

Down the years, Chawans became so popular. The advancements in tea, pottery, ceramic and glassware industry led to discoveries of sophisticated designs. Highly adored wares of the time included Hagi, Karatsu and raku wares. Schools also emerged to teach the art of Chawan making. 

 

Design

Chawan is a collection of masterpieces from various constructors. They are created in perfect harmony with one thing in mind “simply enjoy the tea”. There are core pillars that a Chawan must meet n order to be considered a masterpiece. The design should be:

  • Pleasantly-weighted—for efficiency lifting
  • Well-balanced—the angled lips and the curved body should be proportional
  • Large uniquely-shaped bodies—for easy grasping during the tea drinking session
  • Smooth and cool surfaces—to create a feeling of warmth during the savouring sessions
  • No handles—for cautiousness and hand cupping when holding the tea
  • Narrow-tall shapes—mainly for winter tea warming

 

Types and Classifications of Chawan

Chawan bowls feature a wide range of designs. They are classified based on the place of origin, colour, materials, shapes and many other aspects. 

1. Shapes

Numerous types of Chawan feature cupped shapes. However, not all types come in this form.  Some are cylindrical, round and flat shaped. In Japan, various types of Chawan are named after the shape they feature. For example, Tsutsu-Chawan refers to the cylindrical cups while Hira-Chawan refers to the shallow bowls. 

2. The scope of functionality

Chawans are also categorized based on their uses. With this, we mean the type of tea these magnificent creations are used for. Koichawan is the name for a bowl used to serve thick tea. On the other hand, Ususchawan is used to serve thin tea. 

Japanese Chawan comes in the extra two categories when it comes to the scope of functionalities. That is the rice bowl and general Chawans. Gohanchawan is the name for the rice bowls while Matchawa refers to the cups used specifically for the Japanese tea ceremonies. A general cup for any Japanese tea is called Yunomi. On the other hand, Senchawan cups are specifically used for high-quality types of tea. 

3. Origin

Three countries founded various styles of Chawan. These are China, Japan and Korea. There are specific names given to all styles of Chawan from their distinctive place of origin. 

Chinese Chawan

All Chawan antiques that feature Chinese designs and styles are collectively called Karamono. Though the name is Japanese, the design style originated and advanced in China before spreading to the rest of the world. Chinese tea bowls come in four sub-categories; the tenmoku, Seiji, Hakuji and Sometsuki. The four sub-categories were made with Jian ceramics, Celadon, Blanc de Chine and Blue-white porcelain respectively. 

Korean Chawans

All tea bowls that feature Korean style of construction are collectively referred to as Koraimono. The design of Koraimono is a combination of Japanese rice bowls and Chinese oil canisters shapes.  Se no Rikyu, the Japanese tea master categorized these Chawans into over 16 names based on their simplicity. Popular names include Iji, Mishima, Kinsa, Ido, Goki and many more. 

Japanese Chawans

All Chawans with the Japanese style of design is collectively called Wamono. They are sub-categorized into three brackets all of which relates to the location of the Kiln where they were structured. Popular names include; Karatsu, Iga, Hagi, Seto, Nonko, Chojiro and many more. 

 

Conclusion

The taste and the buzz of Japanese tea drinking can only be achieved through the use of Chawans. Savouring the herbal drink straight from the teapot, you will not only be doing yourself some harm trough risks of burns but also limiting the post-developments of quality tea. As an adept tea drinker, you have any other option apart from securing these ornamental items for your daily tea life. Choose our stores for the cool, classic and latest designs of Chawans straight from Japan, Korea and China. 

Start your day right with a cup of tea