Nicole Wong • January 27, 2020
A Brief Why and How on Kyusu Brewing
Though a Western teapot, Standard Brewer, or even a paper teabag, can get the job done in brewing your tea, there is something special about the particulars of tea traditions from origin. Here is the beginning of a series on specialized teaware.
The yokode kyusu, or side-handled teapot, is not only a beautiful piece of teaware, but a practical, ergonomic craft. It becomes an extension of the host’s arm, making tea-pouring inherently graceful. The movement of shoulder to elbow to wrist to pot becomes as fluid as the liquid being dispensed, like a slow crack of a whip. With the thumb balanced on top of the teapot’s lid, simplicity and poise are effortless.
Note: Thumb can also not be placed on the knob, if desired.
Though ceramic and porcelain teapots are common, there is a reason why clay, unglazed especially, are a good find: due to its high heat retention and natural porous qualities, a clay kyusu can brew tea without your water’s temperature fluctuating (which, for example, makes glass sometimes a finicky vessel to brew or drink from). Much like its yixing clay distant cousins, the unglazed clay interior absorbs the flavors of tea leaves over time, enriching future steeps. (This also means that if you do get an unglazed clay kyusu, it’s best to dedicate one type of tea to it to best take advantage of its design.)
Japanese teas are known for their distinctive shape; the flat, fine, and narrowed pine needle-like leaves of sencha/bancha/gyokuro/etc need plenty of room to unfurl. (It is often said that tea balls or small filters will constrict the leaves, restricting water and air flow for releasing tea’s flavor compounds--though we’ve also come across the idea that compact filters might also break the tea leaves, resulting in a bitter brew.) Many traditionally-styled kyusus will have a wide (or tall) body with a built-in filter, either made from metal mesh or sasame-style (holes built-in to the clay itself). Though the holes filter out most of the leaves, some of the particulate may still filter through: this is a desired trait of quality Japanese teas, as it adds to an unctuous, thicker bodied-brew.
That being said, here are some tips we have learned when brewing in a kyusu:
Traditional senchado uses very gently-warmed water (between 122°F-158°F). However, Western brewing of Japanese teas are partial to 160°-180°F. Higher temperatures yield classically vegetal, soup-like liquor; lower temperatures extract powdery-like sweetness at times. We encourage experimentation!
- Pre-heat your kyusu with your heated water.
- Generally, we use 1gram leaf:1 ounce (~29mL) water ratio.
- Brew for 1-2 minutes.
- Pour into cups, rotating the wrist to extract the last drops between cups.