japanese kyusu teapot

Savoring Tradition: A Guide to Japanese Kyusu Teapots and Tea

What is a kyusu?

kyusu jaoanese tea

A kyusu is a type of tea utensil unique to Japan, used to brew and enjoy tea. It is an important tea utensil as part of the tea ceremony culture and has many profound elements, such as the way the flavor changes depending on the material and shape of the kyusu. Brewing tea using a kyusu is one of the important skills in the tea ceremony, and the shape and materials of the kyusu affect the flavor of the tea, so it is necessary to be familiar with it if you enjoy the tea ceremony.

In addition, the kyusu is not just a tool, but also contains aesthetic and spiritual elements. There are certain rules for the position and handling of the kyusu in the tea room, and these are known as the etiquette and manners of the tea ceremony. Overall, the kyusu is an indispensable part of Japanese tea ceremony culture, and its use and selection are deeply meaningful.

The Beginning of Teapot Culture in Japan: The Edo Period

Saga Prefectual Art Museum

The kyusu culture is said to have been spread by a Zen monk, Baisaō(売茶翁), during the Edo period (around 1710). To begin with, the established tea culture at that time was the "tea ceremony" established by Sen no Rikyu (around 1550). Tea is enjoyed with guests in the guest room, using tea utensils such as matcha bowls and tea whisks. However, the tea culture promoted by Baisaō was "sencha-do" (sencha tea ceremony). While guests were invited to the guest room to enjoy the hanging scrolls, tea utensils, and matcha itself, sencha-do was a casual way to enjoy tea with tea leaves and hot water in a kyusu (teapot). Although sencha itself was widespread, it was not treated with the same level of respect as the matcha culture. With the spread of the tea ceremony, kyusu, one of the tea utensils, also spread.

Production Locations and Pottery of Teapots

tokoname tea ware
Tokoname teapot Shudei kyusu

Teapots are produced in many parts of Japan, but the two major production areas are Tokoname-yaki and Yokkaichi Banko-yaki. Tokoname Pottery is produced mainly in Tokoname City, Aichi Prefecture, and the clay from this area is characterized by its high iron content and reddish color. The unique vermilion color of the teapot, called "Shudei Kyusu," is artistic and not too gaudy, making it a tool that fits in well with any space. The red clay adsorbs catechins contained in tea, reducing astringency and moderating tannin, which is a bitter component, resulting in a mellow and delicious taste.

Mie prefecture

Yokkaichi Banko-yaki is a type of pottery produced mainly in Yokkaichi City, Mie Prefecture, and like Tokoname, is widely known as a production center for kyusu. Yokkaichi kyusu is also characterized by the high iron content in the clay, and is called "Shidei kyusu," with a blackish purple hue. The reason for this difference in color is due to the presence or absence of oxygen during the firing process. Yokkaichi Banko-yaki is fired by reduction firing, which produces a unique purple color. Yokkaichi Banko-yaki is also called "semi-porcelain," which means that it has characteristics that are halfway between ceramics and porcelain, making it highly durable and resistant to breakage.

Tokoname city and Yokkaichi city
Tokoname city and Yokkaichi city

Tokoname City and Yokkaichi City are located in close proximity to each other, and the characteristics of the clay that can be collected may be similar. The presence of clay suitable for kyusu combined with the skillful techniques of craftspeople makes high-quality kyusu. Imari-yaki and Shigaraki-yaki are also examples of kyusu production areas. In fact, an interesting commonality is that the areas where kyusu production has developed are also famous for their tea production. In other words, the author believes that kyusu production was also promoted in the vicinity of areas where tea production flourished.

Types and shapes of kyusu

There are various types and shapes of kyusu, and the brewing method and flavor of tea differ depending on the characteristics of each type.

Yokode-shape: Common shape in the Japanese kyusu style

yokode kyusu
Yokode kyusu

The side-handled kyusu is the most common type of kyusu in Japan, with the handle attached to the side of the kyusu body. It is easy to use and suitable for a wide range of teas, and its shape makes it easy to pour out every last drop. The lid can be held in place with the thumb, so it can be used with one hand. It is widely used in the Japanese tea ceremony culture, and is valued as one of the most useful tea utensils because of its ease of use.

Uwade-shape: Large capacity allows for preparation of a large amount of tea

Uwade kyusu
Uwade kyusu

Ueko-type kyusu is a type of kyusu that can brew a large amount of tea. The handle is attached to the top of the kyusu, making it easy to pour. It is suitable for enjoying tea in generous amounts, such as hojicha, genmaicha, and bancha. It is best used for tea ceremonies or when serving tea to a large number of guests.

Ushirode-shape: Shaped like a teapot

Ushirode kyusu
Ushirode kyusu

The back-handled kyusu has a handle attached to the back of the kyusu. It is shaped like a teapot and allows pouring without effort when brewing tea. It is especially suitable for black tea and hojicha. The back-handled kyusu is suitable for taking advantage of the delicate flavor of tea and allows you to enjoy delicious tea easily.

Hohin-shape: A kyusu for high-end use without a handle

hohin kyusu
Hohin kyusu

Hobin is a specially shaped kyusu without a handle. It is considered to be for high-end teas, as it allows the aroma and flavor of tea to be enjoyed to the fullest. It is often used at tea ceremonies. It is especially suitable for use when enjoying aromatic teas such as sencha and gyokuro, which are brewed at low temperatures.

Materials for kyusu: porcelain, ceramics, ironware, glass, etc.

Teapots are made from a variety of materials, each of which has a different effect on tea. Typical materials include porcelain, pottery, ironware, and glass.

Pottery: No.1 Popular Material

Pottery kyusu
Pottery kyusu

Pottery kyusu is especially popular in Japan. The microscopic holes allow air to enter the hot water, improving the taste of the tea. The texture of ceramic kyusu varies depending on the type of clay and the firing method, and you can enjoy the changing flavor of tea each time you use the kyusu. Tokoname ware and Yokkaichi Banko-yaki ware are especially known for their high quality.

Porcelain: Taste the flavor of tea straight away

Porcelain kyusu
Porcelain kyusu

Porcelain kyusu is thin and light, and does not absorb water as well as ceramic teapots. Because of this, it is easy to feel the bitterness and astringency of tea straight away, and is recommended for those who want to taste the true flavor of tea. As for porcelain kyusu, Arita-yaki, Kutani-yaki, and Seto-yaki are known for their porcelain production, and high technology is used.

Iron kyusu: Characterized by design and durability

Iron kyusu
Iron kyusu

Kyusu made of iron are characterized by high heat retention and resistance to breakage. Their massive and modern design is also a factor in their popularity. Since they have basically been used as tools for boiling water, they are not suitable for extracting delicate flavors. For this reason, hojicha (roasted green tea) and genmaicha (brown rice tea) are tasty when brewed.

Glass: Enjoy the way tea seeps out

Glass kyusu
Glass kyusu

A kyusu made of glass does not affect the taste of tea, allowing you to enjoy the color and aroma of the tea leaves as they are. Because of its transparency, you can enjoy the colorful leaves of herbal and black teas as they seep out of the teapot. The microwavable kyusu is also convenient because it can be easily reheated.

How to enjoy tea using a kyusu

(1) Prepare tea leaves

  • The flavor of tea leaves differs depending on the type and region of origin. Choose your favorite type of tea, such as sencha, gyokuro, or black tea.
  • Generally, 3g (1 teaspoon) of tea leaves per person is a standard amount. However, it can be adjusted according to your preference.

(2) Setting tea leaves in a kyusu

  • When setting tea leaves in the teapot, spread them out evenly so that they are spread out.
  • The amount of tea leaves and the way they are set will affect the flavor of the tea.

(3) Preparation of hot water

  • The appropriate temperature differs depending on the type of tea. For gyokuro, the temperature is around 50 degrees Celsius, sencha around 80 degrees Celsius, and genmaicha and hojicha around 100 degrees Celsius.
  • To maintain the temperature, a thermos can be used.

(4) Steeping tea leaves

  • Steeping tea leaves with hot water opens them up and brings out their rich aroma and flavor.
  • Steeping time varies depending on the type of tea leaves (1 minute for sencha, 30 seconds for deep steamed sencha, 30 seconds for hojicha and genmaicha, and 3 minutes for gyokuro).

(5) Pour hot water

  • Pour the hot water slowly to ensure that the tea leaves are evenly infused. Avoid rapid pouring.
  • Pour the hot water out smoothly from the spout of the teapot.

(6) Enjoy the aroma

  • Tea brewed in a kyusu has a rich aroma. Enjoy the aroma slowly.
  • To enhance the aroma, it is a good idea to trap the aroma in the teacup while enjoying the tea.

(7) Enjoy the flavor

  • The flavor of the tea can be customized by adjusting the temperature of the hot water and the brewing time.
  • You can also change the brewing method to suit your taste.

The following youtube video explains the details of how to brew tea. Please refer to it.


Precautions and care when using a kyusu

  • Do not put kyusu directly on the fire: kyusu is vulnerable to sudden temperature changes, and may break if directly heated on a gas stove.
  • Wash the teapot as soon as possible after use. If tea stains adhere to the teapot, they are difficult to remove. If you use a dishwasher, it is best to avoid using it because of the risk of breakage.
  • Do not use detergent, but wash it under running water. If you use detergent, the smell and ingredients will get on the teapot.
  • If the stain is very strong, use a sponge or a brush: If the stain is very strong, use a soft material to wash the teapot. Use a sponge or soft brush to gently wash the surface so as not to damage it.
  • Dry it completely by natural air dryer: Dry it thoroughly after washing, as mold can occur if it is stored with moisture remaining.


Kyusu comes in a wide variety of shapes and materials, and is a tea utensil that should be carefully selected for the enjoyment of tea. It is recommended to change kyusu according to the type of tea, such as sencha, gyokuro, hojicha, and genmaicha, to broaden the range of flavors. If you take good care of your teapot, you can use it for a long time, so please try to make your own original teapot.