How to select your Japanese teacups

Having selected your ideal teapot, you may well be thinking of acquiring some matching teacups. This is not as straightforward as it sounds!
In Japan, the western ideal of a "tea set", ie.a perfectly matching set of teacups and teapot in the same design, is not absolute. Some sets do exist, although many people like to enjoy various textures and designs by mixing and matching pieces from different kilns. Tokoname, for example, specializes in teapots and produces a fairly small amount of teacups. It is therefore quite common to see Tokoname teapots paired with Arita yaki, Hagi yaki, Kutani yaki or other teacups.

So, how does one go about choosing the appropriate cup?
Teacups in Japan can be broadly split into two groups. NAGAYUNOMI are taller cylindrical cups normally used for oneself or family members for serving tea after a meal. Each family member will have a cup in a different design for their own personal use. Cups are never shared and inadvertently using someone else's cup could lead to a family feud! They can also be found in casual eateries and Sushi restaurants.

The smaller, round type are mainly for guests.These come with or without lids. Special guests will probably be served tea in a lidded cup as this keeps the tea warmer longer and acts as invitation to stay longer and relax. All types will invariably be placed on a wooden or lacquerware saucer.

Both types of teacups can be made either of porcelain or earthenware. Porcelain cups such as Arita yaki are usually pure white inside, which enables one to fully appreciate the color of the tea. The edges are thin and therefore said to be suitable for teas brewed at a low temperature, such as Gyokuro and Sencha. Gyokuro is normally drunk from smaller cups as it is a high grade tea, meant to be enjoyed in small quantities.
Earthenware cups such as Hagi yaki have a rougher, more textured feel. They are said to be more suitable for teas brewed at a higher temperature, such as Bancha or Hojicha and exude a feeling of warmth.
Some people like to use porcelain in summer and earthenware in winter but this is not an universal rule.
Basically, when selecting your teacups, you should consider your needs.What kind of tea will you be drinking? Are you choosing for yourself or with the aim of serving tea to guests? What are your prerogatives? Do you wish to fully appreciate the color of the tea or are you more interested in the feel of the cup in your hand?
So many factors to consider!
We hope that the careful consideration involved in the selection process will allow you to further develop your knowledge of Japanese tea and deepen your understanding of this very unique tradition.
Copyright 2007 Artistic Nippon by Yoshikawa Toki Co. All rights reserved.
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