While I do generally try to avoid anthropomorphizing inert pieces of manmade stuff, I still find it kind of distressing when a nice piece of teaware languishes unused in the back of a cabinet – even if that cabinet is a beautiful antique Japanese tansu, dramatically striped and accented with richly hued persimmon wood. But this past weekend I had the opportunity to remedy a situation of this sort while I was at someone else’s house. The teaware in question was a lovely Japanese earthenware side-handled kyusu (teapot), overall dark reddish-brown, unglazed on the inside and accented in green glaze on the outside. It was very similar in look and style to the Banko-Yaki kyusu that Hibiki-An sells. It had come as a gift from a friend in Japan, and had never been used to brew tea.
After some conversations during which I determined that the attractive little teapot’s owner was open to the idea of letting me brew tea with it, I procured two ounces of Tao of Tea’s Precious Dew Pearl Gyokuro, a fairly easy task since I was in Portland, where there are two different locations where Tao of Tea sells their teas and teaware direct to the public.
In addition to a kyusu, there are other tools employed in brewing gyokuro (or sencha) in the traditional manner that were not on hand, so I had to do a bit of creative improvisation. I had spring water and a standard tea kettle with which to heat the water to boiling, but I did not have a yuzamashi (water cooling vessel). So I decided to employ one of the other unused pieces of Japanese teaware in the house – a small blue cast iron tea pot. This actually worked quite nicely, and the capacity of the iron teapot was very close to the capacity of the kyusu. It also retained the proper aesthetic, which would have been compromised by using something like a measuring cup as a substitute for a yuzamashi. For determining when the water was the proper temperature for brewing the tea I used the entirely unscientific method of waiting for a while and guessing, which also worked out well for me.
The tea itself was quite pleasant, and was enjoyed by the people it was served to. I brewed four infusions of the same gyokuro leaf, each of which had a luxurious brilliant green liquor with a lovely, refreshing flavor. And the neglected kyusu got its time in the limelight, out of the dark recesses of the cabinet.