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.
April 5, 2010 at 4:12 pm
This post made me smile. It’s always nice when one is able to give an idle or forgotten teapot (especially a really nice one like that) it’s day in the sun!
Here’s a true story to further your point – I was vacationing in a little rental cabin on Lopez island a while back and I found a thick brown earthenware 1970’s teapot in the very back of a cupboard. Even in the cupboard it had a thin layer of dust on it. I didn’t use any of my own packed teaware… in favor of that rustic brown pot. I used it every day that I was on the island and I even wrote about how it’s earthy charm had improved the quality of my stay in the cabin’s guest book. On my last day in the cabin, I hid the electric coffee-maker in the back of the cupboard (where the teapot was) and put that teapot, now clean and shiny, in a new place of honor on the kitchen counter (where the coffee maker had been).
April 5, 2010 at 4:33 pm
That is a very charming story. Thank you.
April 9, 2010 at 12:40 pm
I love those photos – the green color of the tea is exquisite.
November 10, 2016 at 6:52 pm
Great post. I find it hard to use other people tea products. I have fell in love with glass water kettles and love Soma Tea kettle I got from Trendglas. It has infuser with larger holes that allows me to brew my chinese medicinal teas. Purchased it at akadwelling.com if you brewing!
Love your site!