The Ultimate Guide to Kyusu & Dobin
Here we'll cover everything you need to know about Japanese teapots including the 4 major types. They come in different shapes and sizes , so make sure you read this before you purchase!
Aside from how it's so fun to fancy different tea-ware while you're enjoying tea, there is also science behind how different types of teapots are used which makes understanding the different types of Kyusu and Dobin so interesting. Let's dive right in!
- What is a Kyusu and what is a Dobin?
- Other teas under the "Shizuoka-cha" unbrella
- The taste of Shizuoka-cha
What is a Kyusu and what is a Dobin?
Firstly, let' s start of with our vocabulary. What's a Kyusu and what's a Dobin?
The Kyusu and Dobin are both types of Japanese teapots made for brewing Japanese green tea.
The Kyusu is the smaller one, used more for making tea such as Sencha, Kabuse-cha, or Gyokuro.
The Dobin is a larger teapot, used more for infusing tea such as Genmaicha, Houjicha, or Bancha. It is characterized by a handle on top made using a different material from the teapot itself.
A Kyusu, or a Japanese teapot
So - why would you need a different type of teapot for different types of tea? Especially because - teapots for black tea are generally the same.
Interestingly, for Japanese green tea, it’s actually VERY important to choose the right teapot. This has to do with the very delicate nature of the taste of Japanese green tea.
If the tea is left in the teapot for too long, the taste can easily be ruined as the astringency and bitterness will leak out of the leaves and into the tea. Therefore, you can’t have a teapot too big where you leave water left inside after serving. It is also important to note that a large teapot for a small serving size is difficult to control the temperature. The hot water will cool down too fast.
On the other hand, having a teapot too small is not good either. Apart from the obvious where you can’t really make enough tea, a small teapot will not allow for the leaves to spread wide enough during infusion. It will not be big enough to release the nutrients and aroma that makes the tea so delicious!
This is why it is important to have the teapot that is just right in size.
It’s not just the size that’s important though. It’s also important to check the shape, the material it’s made from, and the strainer type as well. We’ll go into each of these in this article.
The Four Shapes of the Kyusu and Dobin
First, we’ll look into the shapes of the teapots. There are basically 4 shapes of teapots in Japan. Different shapes are suited for different type of tea.
- The Yokode Type
- The Uwade Type
- The Ushirode Type
- The Houbin Type
The Yokode Type
The Yokode type Kyusu has a side handle
The Yokote type teapot is a very distinct shape which originates in Japan. Yes, this is the type you'll think about when you think Japanese tea.
It has a side handle which is very convenient for pouring tea with one hand. You can use your thumb to place on the lid while pouring the tea so it would not slide off. This shape only exists for small to medium size Kyusu, as it will be difficult to hold large teapots with only one side handle.
It allows for serving the tea with minimal movement. It's a great tea tool to have, definitely recommend to have one at home if you're a tea lover.
The Uwade Type
The Uwade Type has a handle on top.
The Uwate type teapot is one where the handle is on top.
The position of the handle makes it easier to carry heavier tea, suited for brewing tea which is drunk in volume. The Dobin is actually a name for this Uwate handle type teapot where the handle is made from a different material such as wood or straw. This keeps the heat from transferring, making it suitable for drinking tea prepared with hot water.
Tea such as Bancha, Genmaicha, and Houjicha are tea that are drunk in volume and use boiling water to brew. For these, this type of teapot is most suitable.
The Ushirode Type
The Ushirode Type has a handle on the back
I’m sure this is a very familiar shape, same as a teapot you would use for brewing black tea. The handle is on the back side of the mouth of the teapot. This shape is also used for brewing Japanese tea.
The Houbin Type
The Houbin is a small type of Kyusu with no handles
It’s a Kyusu – usually a very small one, small enough to hold in one hand - without any handles! As you can tell, it’s not really suited for infusing tea which is best using boiling water, as it would be too hot to hold. This is more suited for infusing high quality tea at lower temperatures such as Gyokuro, Kabuse-cha, or high-grade Sencha.
The Material of the Kyusu
The material of the Kyusu is also very important, as it is said some actually change the taste of the tea. We’ll go over the main types of material used for Kyusu.
Ceramic / Stoneware
There are two common types of stoneware Kyusu in Japan. The Tokonameyaki, and the Bankoyaki. The clay used contains high levels of iron, and It is said that this reacts and reduces the Catechin content in the tea when it is served. It will reduce the astringency and give it a more mellow taste, allowing you to focus on the umami taste more. This is especially suited for serving high-grade Japanese tea.
It has a glass-like feel and is very slick. This does not change the taste of tea as much. Very common in Chinese teapots, or teapots for black tea as well. If you want to enjoy the astringency as is, the Porcelain teapot may be your choice.
The Size of the Teapot
As mentioned above, the size of the Kyusu is VERY important. It shouldn’t be too big or too small for your use. My recommendation for an entry level Japanese tea drinker is to have a small Kyusu of about 250 ml for high-grade sencha, and another larger one for normal-grade sencha which you can use for Bancha or Houjicha as well.
|Tea Type||Ideal Kyusu Size|
Bancha, Houjicha, Genmaicha
Kyusu types – the strainer
There are many types of tea-strainers when it comes to teapots – even ones that do not come with a strainer! There are only 2 points to think about when it comes to strainers attached to teapots.
- Make sure the strainer still allows for enough space for the leaves to spread
Convenient teapots with detachable strainers are nice – except that sometimes, the part of the strainer where the tea leaves sit is too small that the leaves cannot fully spread during infusion. When this happens, the nutrients will not be fully extracted. Make sure the design of the strainer leaves abundant space for the leaves to spread.
- Make sure the strainer is easy to clean.