A teacup without a handle might baffle you, but you are not alone. It is similar to how you felt when you came across the chopsticks for the first time and wondered how to use them. For many years, the Chinese have brewed their tea and served it in handleless tea cups or bowls, because that is an important part of their traditional tea culture. Tea came from China and therefore the Japanese based the shape of their handleless cups on the Chinese teacups.More About Japanese Tea Cups ▼ Close
The absence of handles means that you have to grasp the teacup with your right hand and hold the bottom with your left hand for support. When holding your teacup in that manner, you will also enjoy the warmth. The Chinese serve their tea at around 70 degrees Celsius because at that temperature, green tea provides the best flavour. The handleless teacup also helps people know whether they are enjoying the best tea. Here are the key main types of Japanese teacups in the market today.
Yunomi is among the commonest types of Japanese teacups, which the Japanese make for their daily consumption of tea. The cups are available in many forms and they usually feature a cylindrical shape, with the commonest sizes ranging between 90Ml and 160Ml. Yunomi cups also come in many pottery styles dating back to the 16th century. Here are the commonest styles.
The Hagi teacup is a glazed high-fired form of stoneware, which the producers based on the Korean pottery style. Most Korean style potters entered Japan during the 15th-century pottery war and their influence on pottery was witnessed across various Japanese pottery styles. Hagi is among the most popular styles of yunomi and it is a milky white glazed teacup.
This white glazed style of yunomi teacup was the first to enter the market. The teacups feature iron oxide brush markings from their feldspar, which is one of the materials the potters use for the cups. The cups also boast a small pinhole texture, known as citron skin or yuzuhada.
If you need high-fired ceramic teacups with underglaze iron paintings, this is the type to go for. After potters introduced porcelain to Japan, the popularity of Karatsu reduced. However, Nakazato Muan revived it between 1895 and 1985. Today, Karatsu is still popular in Japan and other parts of the world.
Mashiko town is situated outside Tokyo but it is widely known for pottery. The earliest style, known as mashikoyaki, was very simple brown and red glaze pottery. The potters used the local red-brown clay to make the teacups. However, Shoji Hamada, a famous Japanese potter, started encouraging creative freedom in the 20th century. So, today, you will find many types of mashikoyaki teacups.
Most Japanese drink bancha, sencha or kukicha tea from the yunomi or Japanese teacup each day. Chawan is another version of the Japanese teacups. Chawans are teacups or bowls that people use to prepare and drink matcha tea. The teacups come in many types, which are commonly used in Japanese tea ceremonies. Their use highly depends on events and some other considerations.
Chawan originated from China and the Japanese started using it between the 13th and 16th century. Until the late 15th century, Chinese Tenmoku Chawan was very common. The Japanese preferred it for their tea ceremonies until the 16th century. The term “Tenmoku” originated from Tianmu Mountain, the location of a Chinese Buddhist temple, and the origin of tea bowls that Japanese monks used.
Before the Kamakura period ended, between 1185 and 1333, tea-drinking spread throughout Japan and Tenmoku Chawan demand increased. The Tenmoku Chawan that originated from China came in various shapes, styles and colours but the Japanese loved the bowls featuring tapered shapes. Later in 1336-1573, the popularity of the Ido Chawan or Korean rice bowls increased in Japan.
The Chawan is classified according to the product colour, shape, origin, material and key features. Even though most Chawans are cupped, you will find many shapes. Each shape has a unique name and they exist as flat, cylindrical, and round shapes. The cylindrical cups are known as Tsutsu-chawan, while the shallow bowls are known as Hira-chawan. In Japan, Chawan is still a common name for the rice bowls and teacups used in ceremonies are known as Matchawa. The standard teacups are known as Yunomi or bowls for hot water and those for high-quality tea are known as Senchawan.
Due to the curved interiors, chasen (a bamboo whisk) can reach all the corners easily when preparing the matcha tea. The smooth interior does not damage the chasen and due to the lightweight, the bowl does not feel heavy on the hands. Japanese also use the chawan for daily drinking of tea.
Traditionally, people prepare and serve matcha tea, known as Matchawan in a bowl. The bowls are made of porcelain, glass, ceramic or stone but the material is irrelevant – people base their selection on the usefulness. When using a matchawan bowl, you will be able to hold it with the right hand and cup it with your left hand to know whether it is warm. The bowls are also painted in the traditional Japanese form of art, with colours that match Matcha tea colours. Today, the market offers a wide range of beautiful cups that retail at US$20-30. They are mostly unique, whether supplied as a whole set or a single cup. The Japanese have used the words matchawan and chawan interchangeably for a long time.
When buying a Japanese teacup, you should go for one that is properly made and one that will feel good on your hands. The choice of Japanese teacups highly depends on the type of tea you are planning to drink. According to the rule of thumb, you have to go for the smaller cups when taking higher-grade teas such as gyokuro. Generally, sencha cups are small and shallow. Moreover, you have to get cups that are white on the inside if your goal is to enjoy emerald green tea. That is because the porcelain white teacups have a delicate and refined look.