K is for Kyusu

Are you a lover of Japanese green teas?  Well, if you are then a kyusu is a must have for you.

A kyusu…

Is a Japanese teapot used for drinking Japanese green teas.  A simple handled kyusu (or kyuusu) pot is a wonderful addition for fans of Japanese green teas. Though the Japanese word “kyusu” itself simply means teapot, it often refers to side-handled clay pots like those made in the Tokoname region of Japan. (Tokoname is a city in central Japan that’s best known for pottery production). They also are made with handles on the top or handles on the back. The handles are usually hollow to prevent them from becoming too hot to hold. They typically have wider bodies which allows heat to dissipate, making them perfect for sensitive teas like sencha. Most kyusu pots are designed for sencha style teas – such as basic sencha, fukamushi, guricha and shincha.  They are available in all shapes, sizes, and colors. You can buy a tiny one-cup Kyusu to a gigantic Kyusu that holds enough tea for twelve or more people!

Teapots_1_25_2018_Tokoname_Yaki_Correct_2000x

Kyusu Tokoname Teapots

Typically…

A kyusu has a cylinder-shaped handle placed 90 degrees from the spout. Originally, this shape made it easy to pour when sitting on a tatami mat (A tatami is a type of mat used as a flooring material in traditional Japanese-style rooms. Traditionally made using rice straw to form the core, the cores of contemporary tatamiare sometimes are composed of compressed wood chip boards or polystyrene foam) in a traditional Japanese room, as the host would sit across from the guest rather than pour tea from the side or from behind. The shape was made to be efficient when pouring tea in small amounts quickly among several cups.

Self-filtering is a big deal…

Japanese green teas need a lot of room to brew so the kyusu pot is designed with a built-in filter, rather than an infusing basket. Since Japanese green teas have smaller particulates that one would find in other teas, the holes of the filter must be smaller. This prevents smaller particulates from finding there way into the finished brew. Filtering the tea leaves in a kyusu is either in the form of a built-in ceramic mesh-like strainer (known as sasame) or an integrated metal screen, which ultimately allows the tea to steep freely within the water. This design then allows the tea to pour off easily (with the side handle allowing one to gracefully and easily pour with one hand). The kyusu’s sturdy clay walls are excellent at retaining and maintaining a consistent temperature throughout any infusion—making it ideally suited to the delicate and low temperatures favored by Japanese green teas. A kyusu’s screen can vary in terms of fineness: ultimately what is needed is a screen that allows ease of pouring flow, for the type of tea that is being brewed.  (Some amount of particulate matter is desirable to contribute to that silty, full-flavored richness that can make a cup of Japanese green tea so enjoyable.)

Now here’s the tricky part… the pouring of the tea

So, you just infused a delicate pot of sencha. Now, using only one hand, you must hold the handle of the kyusu in your right hand (a right- handed teapot is called a Yolode Kyusu) while keeping the lid on with your thumb. (Yes, there are lefty kyusu as well.) Then you will pour off the tea from the kyusu by rocking it back and forth with a gentle wrist motion which allows the water to flow through and past the leaves without agitating and over extracting the tea. Not all the tea will come out at once since you’re tipping the leaves against the screen. I know from experience, this takes a lot of practice!

pouring-japanese-green-tea-from-kyusu

http://theartofjapanesegreentea.com/oku-hikari-organic-sencha-review/

 Repeated infusions…

Are possible with a kyusu: a hotter and much shorter (30 seconds or less) infusion the second time, and a longer (up to twice of the first) infusion for the last one. These subsequent infusions will have less fine, particulate matter coming through the filter, but the tea will still retain a rich and developed flavor.

Care and “feeding” of your kyusu…

Proper care of your kyusu will ensure years of enjoyable drinking. Be sure to take care and bump the spout or handle because they can easily break off if handled too roughly. Dried leaves are nearly impossible to remove from the fine mesh screens so it best to rinse them out as soon as possible.

Next… Kekecha

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