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Essential Guide to Choosing the Perfect Japanese Tea Set

Essential Guide to Choosing the Perfect Japanese Tea Set

With so many shapes and styles of teapots and teacups available today, it can be difficult to choose the best Japanese tea set simply based on personal preferences alone. Additionally, through centuries of green tea consumption in Japan, the shapes and sizes of teapots and teacups have evolved over time to help bring out characteristics of specific green tea varieties. If you would like to finally understand these often confusing difference in design, we invite you to keep reading.

Information that is covered:

Choosing a Japanese Teapot

Beyond stylistic preferences, we suggest considering the following four criteria when shopping for a Japanese teapot:

Clay vs. Porcelain Teapots

In general, Japanese teapots are made with either clay (stoneware) or porcelain materials. Porcelain teapots are versatile in their ability to brew just about any tea since the pot doesn’t absorb the aroma of the tea.

As for clay teapots, you will find more interplay between the tea and the pot. Clay varieties like Tokoname-yaki and Banko-yaki are known for contributing to a mellower tasting tea as well as enhancing the umami component. This is because the clay contains a high iron content, which causes a chemical reaction with the tannins found in the tea leaves.

4 Basic Japanese Teapot Shapes

There are four basic shapes for Japanese teapots with the main difference found in the handle’s design. If you have researched Japanese teapots before, you may also be confused between the difference between a Japanese teapot and a “kyusu”; the two are one and the same.

Yokode Kyusu

Yokode Kyusu
The handle on a yokode kyusu is placed on the side of the teapot (usually the right side), which allows the thumb to be placed on top of the lid, preventing the lid from falling off while you are pouring.

Ushirode Kyusu

Ushirode Kyusu
The handle on an ushirode kyusu is placed on the back of the teapot. The shape of this teapot was adapted from the Chinese teapot. Though this teapot can be used for any tea, it is generally known to be used for Chinese or English tea varieties.

Uwade Kyusu

Uwade Kyusu
The handle on an uwade kyusu is at the top of the teapot. The material used for the handle is usually a different material, for example, bamboo.

Hohin

Hohin
A hohin does not have a handle. Because of this, you must hold the cup-like teapot in your hand, which requires that you use it only for low temperature green tea.

Japanese Teapot Sizes

It is important to consider which teapot size is best for your chosen tea when shopping for a teapot.

For example, if you like gyokuro, and often enjoy it by yourself, it is wise to acquire a hohin. If you and your family likes hojicha after dinner, then you might want to choose a large uwade kyusu.

It is possible to prepare sencha by using a large teapot with an uwade handle. However, please note that the water temperature can be difficult to control, resulting in inconsistent steeping.

Clay vs. Metal Teapot Filters

Almost always the preferred choice in high-quality Japanese teapots, clay filters are built into the teapot, using the same materials as the vessel. Unlike many stainless steel teapot filters, the clay filters allow the tea to fully steep in the water without coming into contact with any metal. The only downside of a built-in filter design is that it takes greater care as the filter holes can sometimes become obstructed; but this is easily countered by the clay filter’s ability to produce a higher quality brewing.

Clay vs. Metal Teapot Filters

Filter NameFilter DesignRepresentative Japanese Ware
1SasameWide surface, smallest hole sizeTokoname
2CerameshWide surfaceTokoname
3TomochakoshiHalf-ball shapeBanko and Tokoname
4DonukiHoles directly in the vessel wallBizen and Kiyomizu
5ShiboridashiHohin without holesShigaraki and Tokoname
6TsukumoAbove the pour spout but under the lidTokoname
7TenroInner side of the lidTokoname

What Is a Yuzamashi?

Yuzamashi is a lidless cooling cup with a back or side handle and sometimes a pour spout. It is used to cool down the boiled water to a desired temperature or serve tea. Yuzamashi is not an essential accessory for most tea varieties, however, it is a wonderful addition for green tea enthusiasts.

What Is a Yuzamashi?

Choosing a Japanese Teacup

Once you have found your favorite green tea and the right teapot, all you need is the perfect Japanese teacup to bring out the tea’s flavor and aroma.

Unlike Japanese teapots, there are not hard rules or guidelines assigning a specific teacup shape to a specific tea variety. However, since each tea variety is steeped differently to enhance its unique qualities, it is worth taking the time to learn about the different types of Japanese teacups available.

Japanese Teacup Materials

In general, teacups come in three types: porcelain, clay and glass.

Porcelain Teacups
Japanese porcelain teacups are very popular in Japan and can be found in most Japanese homes. They are thin, lightweight and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Clay Teacups
Also very popular in Japan, clay teacups offer a more traditional Japanese aesthetic with their fire-glazed appearance. The Japanese phrase “wabi-sabi” would be a perfect word to describe this style.

Glass Teacups
Glass teacups are a good choice primarily for ice-cold green tea on a hot summer day.

Japanese Teacup Shapes

There seems to be almost too many subtle Japanese teacup shapes to count, however, most shapes generally fall in one of the following three categories.

Teacups with Tapered Sides

Teacups with Tapered Sides
Tea cups of this shape can enhance the green tea’s aroma and are a great option for varieties like gyokuro and sencha.

Teacups with Straight Sides

Teacups with Straight Sides
The stately silhouette of this shape functions to maintain the temperature of tea. Therefore, it can be a good option when drinking hojicha or genmaicha as both require a higher steeping temperature.

Teacups with Lids

Teacups with Lids
While a teacup with a lid may hold the heat in longer, its primary function is that of decoration when serving green tea to guests.

Considering the Teacup’s Color

The teacup’s color is ultimately based on your preferences, however, there is the following consideration. For green tea, the color of the teacup matters more on the inside than the outside since it can affect the visual color of the tea when poured into the cup. As such, you may wish to acquire an additional set of white teacups for when showing the vibrant color of the green tea is important.

Choosing the Best Japanese Tea Set for Your Favorite Green Tea

The information above should guide you in choosing both a teapot and teacup that enhances your green tea experience. However, if some of the concepts explained here are still a little difficult to put together, you can use the following table to help you choose the best Japanese tea set by green tea variety.

Tea VarietyTeapot SizeTeacup SizeRecommended Tea Set
Gyokuro120 cc40 ccBamboo Hohin
+
Bamboo Yuzamashi
+
Bamboo Gyokuro Tea Cup
Kabusecha130 cc70 ccHasamiyaki Hira Kyusu
+
Hasamiyaki Tea Cup
Sencha250 cc120 ccSabisenmon Kyusu
+
Sabisenmon Tea Cup
Fukamushicha240 cc90 ccHokuryu Fukurogata Kyusu
+
Pine Needle Tea Cup
Kukicha (Karigane)220 cc60 ccTakasuke Ivory Kyusu Large
+
Mino Sorigata Yunomi
Konacha-160 ccChakoshi
+
Hakeme Tsutsu Yunomi
Kamairicha250 cc140 ccGyokko Yakishime Tea Set
Genmaicha270 cc120 ccGyokko Yohen Tea Set
Hojicha600 cc130 ccKyoesansui Tea Set

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