Swans, Flowers and Iron

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banko-yaki_houhin

Closely tying in to the last post, I wanted to provide some details on the Banko-Yaki Houhin teapot that I referred to. I wasn’t really in the market for a teapot in this style when I came across this one several months ago, but I really liked the look of it so I bought it. The style of pot is Houhin (宝瓶) and it is Banko-Yaki (万古焼), which means that it was made under the Banko kiln name. “Yaki” means “ware” in Japanese, and often with ceramics the part of the name preceding the “-Yaki” is the name of the kiln. This part of the name often also identifies the type of clay since different regions and manufacturers can have their own distinct type of clay. This is true with both Banko and Tokoname. By contrast the “Hagi” in Hagi-Yaki, that Japanese ceramic ware that looks like Frosted Mini-Wheats, the name refers to the glaze and rough style, not the base clay.

Banko-Yaki clay is quite distinctive with its dark brown/purple color and metallic sheen. It feels a little like stoneware in the hand, although it’s not heavy. It sometimes has hand painted decorations on it, but it seems to be most often unglazed, like the Banko-Yaki pot that I have. Of course other forms of teapots can be Banko-Yaki. Banko-Yaki Kyuusu are not unusual.

The Houhin style of teapot is different from a Kyusu (or Kyuusu) primarily in that it is without handles. Its upside-down, 3-sided pyramid shaped spout is typical and differentiates it from a Shiboridashi, which is a smaller capacity, very shallow lidded teapot without a handle and without a strainer. A Houhin teapot can have either a built-in stainless steel strainer like mine, or it can have a sasame – a filter that is made of the same clay and integrated into the pot itself.

banko-yaki_houhin_strainerReally the most remarkable thing about this particular Banko-Yaki Houhin is its price. I bought mine from “The Japanese Green Tea Shop” on eBay for $19 and Yuuki-Cha offers it from their online store for $19 also. These may actually be the same seller, but there are none of these items on eBay right now. This is quite a bargain for an attractive and functional piece of Japanese teaware. I question whether it is actually handmade, as the product description states, because each of the teapots looks identical and it feels and looks machined. The price also leads me to doubt its manufacture as made by hand. Handmade artisan teapots from Japan are usually a lot more expensive. Here is the product description:
banko-yaki_houhin_swan_detail

“A little handcrafted houhin Banko-Yaki teapot. It is unglazed, fired at 1200°C, and has an iron rich clay. Each side of the teapot has an image of a swan, and the top of the lid’s handle has an image of a flower. Its full capacity is 190ml (6.4oz) measured to the rim. However, when correctly used a houhin should NEVER be filled more than 2/3’s full making its maximum usable capacity approximately 120ml (4oz). In addition, only Japanese green teas such as gyokuro, high quality kabusecha, or high quality sencha that brew at lower temperatures of 50°C-60°C should be prepared in a houhin. Our organic gyokuro, organic kabusecha, or organic gokujo sencha will brew up perfectly in this little houhin! Comes with a hiraami stainless steel strainer that covers the spout exit.”

The bottom line is that this cheap little teapot brews quite delicious tea. The unglazed iron-rich clay has a wonderful effect on Japanese green tea, comparable to that of my Hokujo Tokoname Kyuusu, which cost considerably more money. I would never risk bringing the lovely Hokujo pot anywhere dangerous, but this little Banko-Yaki pot isn’t so precious so currently its sitting on my desk at work. I consider this $19 pot quite a bargain and I’ve grown quite fond of the way that it brews. The one annoyance that I have found with it is that it doesn’t pour terribly well. I’ve tried varying speed and angle of my pour and it always seems to drip some tea or water down its front and onto the table. But most of the liquid ends up where it ought to – in the teacups – and it’s an easy swipe of a towel to clean up after it.

bank0-yaki_houhin_lid

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13 Comments

  1. wow ill have to get me one thats a deal

  2. No handles, so do you just have to hold it with a towel or something?

    • As others have commented below, you don’t need a towel for it. The swans on the sides and the flowers on the top are where you put your fingers and thumb, and those parts don’t get hot like the main body of the pot. And with 140-150 degree water the chance of burning is less anyway.

  3. GFG – Very cool teapot. I’ve never heard the word houhin before this post. Thanks for expanding my tea vocab! It really looks like a great way to brew Japanese green tea.

    Kali – I think if you hold it using the swans on the sides it will feel very natural and not be too hot. (but I’m not certain.)

    • Houhin is sometimes spelled “ho-hin” and sometimes “hohin,” which keeps things interesting.

      You’re right about the swans being handle-like places to put your finger and thumb (and they’re pretty cute too). Without any practice it’s easier to pour than a gaiwan, although it doesn’t pour as well.

  4. This style of teapot, and also the shiborisashi, are specially designed for brewing gyokuro or high quality sencha teas which should be brewed at the lowest temperatures (40-50 °C), therefore no need of a towel or something to hold it.

  5. I’m pretty sure The Japanese Green Tea Shop and Yuuki-cha are the same company. Yuuki-cha used to be known as The Japanese Green Tea Shop until earlier this year when they became Yuuki-cha. (The first name being long enough to be abbreviated to TJGTS by some)

    • I thought that I had remembered an online shop associated with the eBay store that had the same name, so that explains it. I didn’t take the time to track down the eBay store itself to check. They’re a nice place to buy from in any case.

  6. Though I am a tea lover, i have not taste the white tea before. I do tea wares collector as well. You are welcome to my blog to see some of tea artifacts.

  7. I have this same pot, and I’m also very pleased with it. It took me a bit to get the knack, but I no longer have any trouble pouring from it without drips or difficulty. Things I had to learn:

    1. Rotate the lid so that the vent hole is next to the spout, not opposite the spout.

    2. Forearm needs to be level and just above the top of the cup being filled.

    3. Don’t overfill the pot — the literature on mine said it’s not designed for being filled to the rim, and they weren’t kidding. Anything over 5 oz. makes a mess.

    It should be noted that I have unusually small hands, which makes it necessary for me to handle most pots differently from other people, so your mileage may vary using my methods.

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