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Japanese teacups

Japanese Chawan - The Ultimage Guide

A cup is a cup, and you can use anything to drink your Japanese tea. Even a mug cup will certainly do, and you can still have delicious Japanese tea! However, understanding and using the Chawan you like will surely enhance your Japanese tea experience.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the basics of the Chawan, so you can choose the right one for your tea.

Honestly, when I started drinking tea I didn't really mind about the type of cups I would drink it from. I felt they would taste the same anyways.

As I started to appreciate tea, and understand how the small details effect the taste and experience of the tea, I learned the importance of understanding the different types of Chawan. I hope this information will help you too.


What is a Chawan?

A Chawan is a Japanese cup used for drinking Japanese tea.

At Tealife we call the cups used for infused tea “Chawan”, and the cups used for Matcha Matcha-Chawan”.

There are other names such as “Yunomi-Jyawan” or “Sencha-Chawan”, and they have slightly different meanings. We will just generalize and put them under the “Chawan” category.


The Three Shapes of Chawan

There are three types of shapes for the Chawan. We’ll go over the differences between these three.

  • Kumidashi-Chawan
  • Tsutsu-Chawan
  • Futatsuki-Chawan

Kumidashi-Chawan

Kumidashi-chawan

Kumidashi-Chawan is a short cup with the mouth of the cup spreading outwards. This shape allows the aroma to be released and is suited for high-grade tea such as Sencha or Gyokuro. This is also why this type of Chawan is commonly used for guests. Use a small sized Kumidashi-Chawan for Gyokuro, and a medium sized for Sencha.


Tsutsu-Chawan

Tsutsu-chawan

This is a long and tall type of Chawan, almost the shape of a cylinder. The Japanese term “Tsutsu” means cylinder, and this shape is very effective in keeping the tea hot. This type of Chawan is commonly used for tea that are drunk at a high temperature such as Houjicha, Genmaicha, and Bancha.


Futatsuki-Chawan

Futatsuki-chawan

We don’t see these too often in Japanese households these days, but the Futatsuki-Chawan is a Chawan with a lid to keep the tea warm. Aside from this, it has a formal look, and used for greeting special guests.


Materials Used for Chawan

The material used for the Chawan have implications as well. Here are the 3 major types of material commonly used.

  • Porcelain
  • Ceramic
  • Glass

Porcelain

Chawan made from Porcelin are thin and light to hold. It also has a very smooth touch. Since the temperature is easily transferred, it may be too hot to drink tea such as Houjicha or Genmaicha. They are better suited for Gyokuro or Sencha.

Because the Porcelain Chawan would usually be white or of a very light colour, it allows the color of the tea to show. This is another reason why it’s suited for high-grade tea such as Gyokuro or Sencha.

Use a Porcelain Kumidashi-Chawan for Gyokuro or Sencha.

Ceramic

Ceramic Chawans are usually thick. Therefore, it is good at keeping the tea hot. Ceramic is perfect for tea of high temperature such as Houjicha, Genmaicha, or Bancha.

If you use a Tutsu-Chawan made from ceramic, it’ll keep the tea warm for a much longer time.

Glass

Glass material is commonly used for cold tea such as cold Sencha or cold Matcha during the Summer.


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