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Hassouni

Different results from different brewing vessels?

22 posts in this topic

I just saw Richard Kilgore's latest tea tasting thread, where he asks tasters to brew in a gaiwan or kyusu vs a Western-style teapot. I pretty much only use Western-style teapots or brew directly in the mug (I have a gaiwan but I find it a pain for every day use). How do different vessels affect the tea differently? I would imagine as long as the water can be kept hot while brewing, it's all basically the same. Anyone care to explain?

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Some of the differences, are related to the thickness of the vessel--how fast does it cool off? Some differences will be in vessel sizes--does it encourage you to pack it and make very concentrated infusions briefly, or to lightly fill it for more dilute and fewer infusions? Some will be related to how fast and facile the vessel empties--can you really pour an infusion before the tea steeps more than 10 seconds? And then you get into complexities of the mineral content of clays--how does that impact the water and the tea? How porous is the clay? Does it absorb some of the tea elements exposing other elements of the flavor?

It's a huge topic, and I've had just a few experiences where I am pretty sure I noted a difference between a tea brewed in two different vessels. It's definitely happened a few times.

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Well, I drink Japanese green tea (ito en or yamamotoyama asian supermarket stuff) more than anything except strong Iraqi style tea, and I'm wondering if a kyusu will really produce better tea than my mug and strainer basket approach.

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I don't know if the sencha will show much difference--I love my kyusu because it's easier than a gaiwan and handles the fines of the leaves better than my chinese teapots. The first pot I used for sencha was a glass pot with a wire mesh strainer, and it worked OK, but a kyusu is simply a better design for sencha, easier to use, and the one I have is so beautiful it makes me happy every time I use it.

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I would not brew those in my unglazed kyusu, but have brewed them in a glazed kyusu.

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Unglazed vessels can carry over some flavor from one brewing to the next--that's one of the good things about them (can subtly enhance flavor of similar teas regularly brewed it), but also one of the bad things about them (can muddy flavors if very dissimilar teas are brewed in it).

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Hassouni - My experience with both Japanese and Chinese green teas (and Chinese Oolongs, puehrs, red and white teas) is similar to that of Wholemeal Crank - the brewing vessel makes a significant difference. The material the vessel is made from - china, porcelain, various clays, the shape of the vessel - tall, round, flat, the thickness of the vessel walls. Any or all may make a difference for a specific leaf.

The Japanese have developed over hundreds of years tea pots that work particularly well for sencha and gyokuro, and other green teas. If you want to explore for yourself, a glazed kyusu is a good way to start, since you can always continue to use it for your bancha and hojicha, as well as genmaicha if you eventually try an unglazed pot. If you do, you'll likely notice a difference in brewing with Japanese pots made with different clays. And you can use those differences to tweak a tea to your liking.

That said, previously I also drank quality senchas for several years brewed in a cup with strainer insert, as you do. And I enjoyed it. It's just that I prefer Japanese tea pots of various materials and shapes now for various teas. But I would not recommend that to a casual tea drinker. Up to you how tea geeky you want to get.

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If you're considering moving up from the mug/insert arrangement, a glazed kyusu can handle most any tea well, and won't carry over odors/flavors between teas. My other favorite good for almost anything pot is a simple little glass pot with a glass strainer built into the spout--but it doesn't do well with senchas, because the finer bits of leaf go through or go partly through and clog the holes, which are larger than those of the kyusu.

My problem with mugs with strainer inserts for regular brewing is that the common glass filter inserts with very thin grooves for the straining limit water movement, get easily clogged with bits of leaf that are hard to remove, and are so slow to drain under the best of circumstances that it is VERY hard to brew short infusions of teas that require extra care to avoid bitterness.

Despite my now not-so-small collection of teapots and gaiwans, though I've gotten to the point where I can detect some differences between different brewing vessels for certain teas, I still do a lot of my brewing in a plastic kamjove thingie, and it makes tea that is quite fine.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

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Yeah the strainers I put in the mugs are metal mesh, either metal or plastic framed, that I've pulled out of old teapots (which broke or were far too large for normal use, or whatever other reason). They fill up most of an ordinary ceramic mug.

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Sounds like a case of 'ain't broke, so don't fix it', unless you (1) get the teaware bug (TAD aka Teaware Acquisition Disorder is highly contagious) or (2) fall in love with a tea that is hard to brew with your current setup, don't worry about it.

Are you doing multiple infusions of any teas?

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Yes, almost all my Japanese and Chinese teas I do multiple infusions, up to 3.

I also already have the teaware bug, but I'm at a stage where I have to justify a new addition....


Edited by Hassouni (log)

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Heat retention and the speed of the pour are the two biggest variables. Heat retention can be noticed especially -- but you can kind of correct for a really heavy brewing vessel by using slightly cooler water or by pouring from higher in a thin stream. For certain types of teas, especially more delicate or aromatic ones, I personally get the best results from a very thin-walled gaiwan.

The type of material may also have some effect. For example, high-fired stoneware and porcelain are said to be more neutral, and to bring out more of a tea's bright notes, whereas stoneware, especially lower-fired and more porous stoneware, can sometimes take off a tea's rough edges. But these kinds of differences are pretty subtle.

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Beautiful teaware makes you happier while using it, and that makes your teas taste better, even if they do not alter the water at all.

Beautiful teaware makes you happy to gaze upon, even at moments when you're not making tea.

Every pot you buy from a master creator of teawares, or a dealer in fine tea antiques, helps keep them in business so the rest of us can also enjoy their wares.

And that's even without considering how nice it is to make tea with a pot or shiboridashi or kyusu or gaiwan that just fits a particular tea very nicely.

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OK, so I'm pretty committed to getting a yokode kyusu. I just drink too much Japanese tea to brew in a mug or pyrex measuring cup (more room for the leaves to expand).

What are the differences in performance between the various filters? I'd really like one with sasame, the traditional clay filter, but those seem to come on the more expensive models. Otherwise, there are mesh screens that go around the entire teapot, mesh screens that just block the spout (these look cheap and crummy), and mesh screens that act as a sort of net and suspend the leaves so that they drain between infusions. Is there any practical difference between these various filters/screens?

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Please fill me in on what is a "yokode" kyusu?

The clay filters work well with all but fukamushi (deep steamed) because the leaves are more fragmented and more will pass through. Although I use pots with clay filters for fukamushi and have no real problem if I pour very slowly. If you don't like even a few fragments, just use a hand-held screen between the pot and the cup.

The 360 degree metal filters work well - no problem with leaves clogging at the spout. The metal filter that raises the leaves above the bottom should work well, but I have no experience with them. The small filter at the spout works okay, but more potential for leaf clogging; many good teapots use them. A plus is that many metal filters are replaceable; once you break a clay one, it's done. The one potential down-side to metal filters (other than aesthetics) is that some people (including me) think they can detect a metallic note in the tea when brewing in them.

Hope that helps.

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Yokode refers to the handle on the side instead of on the back or the top. Kyusu means teapot generically and on its own can be any kind.

Yeah, I'm concerned about a metallic taste. Then again, I use metal strainers now, so who knows.

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Yes, the name for a side-handled teapot was lost to memory - Lost and Found Dept., that is. So many use kyusu for it that I do, too. Thanks for the reminder.

Regarding the metallic taste, I can't be sure it is from the metal filter; could be a mineral sharpness from the clay. The thing I am sure of is that different clays produce different end results. My Banko pots tend to smooth a tea, and my tokoname tend to sharpen it. So I can choose to produce a tea liquor that meets my tastes by brewing it in one or the other. In general, I prefer the effect of Banko.

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