The Banko-yaki kyusu, Shofu kiln is a thing of beauty to behold and use.
Teas of Japan (thes-du-japon.com) offers this teapot made by Yamamoto Hiromi of the Shofu workshop. The Shofu studio was originally the collaboration of three brothers. The teapot was created by the youngest brother, who now focuses on works shown in art galleries. Don’t expect new teapots to come from the Shofu kiln.
This pot is produced in the banko style, and has characteristics of:
– Lightweight with thin walls. This can be an advantage in preventing delicate green teas from excessive heat.
– Purple/red color. Before firing, this iron-rich clay looks yellow. The reduction atmosphere of the kilns causes the clay to change color. Additionally, the iron in the clay is believed to enhance the texture of tea.
– The trademark onion dome shape of the lid knob.
Using the pot is a pleasing experience. The rounded clay strainer is fine enough to prevent leaves of my daily-use sencha from slipping through. It is not as fine as the mesh strainer in other pots, but this gives the advantage of a smoother, quicker, pour.
Given the ease at which tea flows through the spout, I haven’t noted drops of tea dripping down the spout to the bottom of the pot.
The general feeling is that some clays, like oxidation-baked red clay, elicit stronger flavors and aromas from the liquid while reduction baked clays create smoother finishes and fuller aftertastes. With oxidation-baked red clay kyusus, you may note that both desirable and undesirable elements of the taste/aroma profile become more evident.
Using a few daily-use Japanese senchas, I would say these teas were as smooth or smoother than when steeped in my tokoname kyusu. That is not to say banko is necessarily better. There are many factors at play here, including differences in clay quality and method of firing.
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