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In Japan, tea is one of the most celebrated drinks. It is not just an energy powerhouse with myriads of health benefits but also a special drink that plays a huge role in the Japanese cultural heritage. For efficient brewing, Japanese tea sets feature different designs, shades and sizes. Contemporarily, there are over 28 tea sets models across Japan. With almost every tea having its own brewing vessel, you can just imagine the minimum number of tea sets a typical Japanese home can have. 

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History of the Japanese Tea

Tea is a cornerstone of Japanese food culture. The history of Japanese tea dates back to as early as the 4th Century. This is the time when evident records of tea were put in place. Meaning, it can be even earlier than that. 

Tea plants were not indigenous to Japan.  The first seed to land on the land was from China. According to legends, this happened during the Tang Dynasty (China 618-907)—the period when the relationship between the two countries was at its peak, leading to a lot of cultural and trade exchanges. 

Introduction of tea in Japan is highly linked to Buddhism. The first seed to be introduced from China was brought in the land by a Buddhist monk (Monk Saisho) who had paid a courtesy visit to a fellow Chinese Monk. At that moment, tea had been an essential drink among the Chinese for more than a millennium. 

The true Japanese tea culture started to manifest in the year 1141-1215. This is when another monk, Monk Eisai brought tea seeds again from a pilgrimage to China. Unlike his counterpart, he went ahead and planted the first seeds in the Island of Kyushu and all regions around the monasteries of Hakata. That's where earnest Japanese tea culture grew its clowns. 

Since the inception of the tea in Japan was linked to the Monastery, the use of tea was ritualized. It was consumed mainly by the monks, warriors and the people of higher status for medicinal purposes. 

The monk formally initiated the first tea ceremony of its kind in the eighteenth century. At this period, there was a book by a Chinese Monk named “Cha-Ching” that detailed the recipe of traditional tea preparation. Therefore, even in the ceremony, the process of tea preparation was not much worrisome. 

However, the first Japanese tea ceremony was not much similar to the recent ones. The mode of preparation was limited to the traditional Japanese green tea brewing. Also, the drink was purposefully for medicinal use and not refreshment or enjoyment. Otherwise, just like the temporary Japanese tea ceremonies (way of life), it symbolized tranquillity, harmony, purity and respect. 

During the 13th Century, Japan became under the power of a feudal government.  Feudal warriors used tea as a symbol of status. Also, the government initiated tea brewing contests in which the best-quality brewers were rewarded. 

During the 16th century, tea became so popular among Japanese residents. Its uses advanced from the ritualized medicinal use to general refreshments.Sen no Rikyu, a popular Japanese tea master, through his bookSouthern Record, gave light to the principles of theway of life. These included: 

  • Formal invitation of the guest to the tea house
  • Proper cleaning of the drinking place
  • Use of specific Japanese Tea Sets and their accessories (Mizusashi, Furo, Chawa, Sashaku, Kama and Natsume)
  • Specified recipes (Matcha green tea preparation)
  • Specified mode of matcha tea drinking
  • Formal completion of the Japanese Tea Ceremony 

These formalities are still applicable until now. However, to pass this to the next generation, the Japanese adopted formal education on the ways of the tea ceremony. They established three schools, commonly known as the Rikyuan schools that exist up to date. 

Contemporarily, Japanese tea culture has made remarkable progress. The introduction of black tea has led to the advancement of tea use into a nascent industry. Due to technological advancements, there is various tea processing industry in the country. Some of the largest tea growing areas in Japan are Shizuoka, Mie and Kagoshima. Japan is globally known for its production of tea and her outstanding tea sets.

 

Types of Japanese teapots

Japanese teapots (Kyusu) features different stunning varieties and models. Just like the Chinese teapots, there are dozens of options to choose from. However, the pots are limited to specific styles. Here are the most popular Japanese teapot brands that you are likely going to meet in any part of the world. 

1. Yokode Kyusu

Yokode Kyusu is one of the most favoured Japanese Tea Pot worldwide. Almost 80% of Japanese homes own this type of Kyusu. Traditional Yokode Kyusus are made with Banko-Yaki clay of Mie prefecture. It is one of the high-quality teapots in Japan. 

Yokode Kyusus feature side handles designed in a manner that it meets the sprout in an almost right angle. Contemporary Yokode Kyusus are made with ceramic, porcelain or cast iron. Depending on your preference, their capacity varies from 100 ml to about 1000 ml. The pot is rounded with a narrow handle. To efficiently pour out the drink out of the pot, you need to hold the hand and use the thumb to press down the lid. 

2. Uwade Kyusus

Uwade kyusu refers to any Japanese pot designed with the handle located at the top. Usually, the handle of the pot features a non-heat conductor that is different in materiality as compared to the rest of the pot.  Rattan, bamboo and plastic are the most common types of materials used for the handle. Just like the Yokode, the body of this teapot is bulged and rounded to accommodate more cups of tea. Bright-coloured handles are the best option when looking for a beautiful pot of the same style. 

3. Ushirode Kyusus

This style of Kyusu design has its roots from the Chinese clay teapot designs. The handle of the pot is placed at the back just like the European pots. Generally, the shape or design of the pot influences its scope of functionality. In Japan, its use is limited to Chinese or any other tea with a native origin. Otherwise, different brands of Ushirode Kyusus are made with materials such as clay, porcelain, stainless steel, glass, bamboo and ceramic. 

4. Dobin Kyusus

Dobin is the second most popular pot in Japan. Just like the Uwade Kyusus, they feature handles that are located at the top. However, the handle is attached to the main pot with hooks to minimize the effects of heat when pouring a hot drink. The handle is made of bamboo, rattan or plastic. You can easily change the handle of one pot for another since they are not permanently attached. Otherwise, Dobin pots are the most preferred for brewing and serving. 

5. Tetsubin kyusus

Tetsubin kyusus are primarily made with cast iron. They have long strands of historical records due to their roles in boiling water.  The use of Tetsubin pots in Japanese teas started with the brewing of the sencha tea. Since cast irons are better conductors of heat, Tetsubin kyusus were used purposefully for heating the tea after which the drink was transferred to a secondary storage vessel. Modern Tetsubin Kyusus have enamel coatings for insulation. 

6. Houbin kyuysus

Houbin pots feature no handle. As a result, they are held with a cupped hand when pouring. Due to their design, Houbin pots cannot be used to brew teas that require intensified heat during brewing. They are the best option for high-grade Senchas or a low-temperature Gyokuro tea. Otherwise, Houbin pots enable the drinkers to feel the warmth of the tea hence making the whole process glitz. 

7. Shirobidashi kyusus

This is the least popular of all the pots. It is shaped like the Houbin pot with a squatter-like shape. Most Shirobidashi features shallow bowl-like shape with a crescent-moon shaped spout. Contemporary brands feature an additional handle for an efficient brewing process. Due to their shallow depth and the wide top, Shirobidashis are used to brew high-quality brews that do not rise higher.

 

Choosing a Japanese tea set

Due to a wide range of options, it is not always easy to choose the best Japanese tea set to opt for. Here are the important factors you need to consider when buying a Japanese pot.

1. Materiality

Depending on your personal preferences, you can go for porcelain, glass, cast iron, stainless steel or clay pot. They both offer cutting-edge performance, aesthetic appearance and huge value for money. 

2. Capacity

The pots feature a capacity range of between 100ml to as high as 3 liters. The number of family members and how often you brew are the prerequisites to consider as far as capacity is concerned. 

3. Maintenance option

Glass, porcelain and clay pots feature a high level of fragility. Therefore, unlike the cast iron pots, they demand a lot in terms of cautiousness. 

4. Accessories

Some pots come handy with removable strainers, some have fixed strainers while some do not have strainers at all. Strainers are a key factor for excellent brewing. However, fixed strainers may render the pot hard-to-wash. 

5. Price

Price can limit you to access the pot of your choice when you lack money. Japanese tea sets feature different materiality and designs hence their prices differ with a large margin. It is, therefore, advisable to consider the price since you only get what you pay for. 

6. Tea types 

For high-quality tea types, Yokode or Shiboridashi pots are the best. Otherwise, for other low-quality tea types, you are free to use any pot.  

 

Conclusion

Japanese tea sets are widely known for their stupendous designs and a wide range of uses. Classical designs make good gifts for Christmas, house-warmings or weddings. As a tea enthusiast, you have no option other than acquiring one for your daily tea brewing or warming. 

Start your day right with a cup of tea