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Chawan (tea bawl) for drinking Matcha

We use chawan for drinking tea, and also for serving rice. Chawan is a gereral name of bowls for serving tea and bowls for serving rice. There are also specific names for bowls for serving rice as "gohan-cha-wan" or "ii-cha-wan". Their direct translation is "Rice tea bowl" It is interesting that they were never called as "gohan-wan" or "ii-wan" which avoids the word "cha"(tea) . In Japan, long time ago, a wooden bowl was used for serving rice. During Kamakura era, porcelain and pottery products were brought from China along tea leaves. At the time, porcelain products we had in Japan were very poor and plain, and those imported high quality porcelain products from China or Korea were extreamly expensive. Those porcelain products were only used by wealthy nobility for drinking tea. You can still see those old part of culture by experiencing eating Kaiseki (special meal comes with tea ceremony) which are used lacquer ware for serving meals. Now, let me introduce what kind of chawans are available on the market now. For drinking strong Matcha, Tenmoku chawan, Seiji, Idochawan, or Korai chawan are recommended. They were all originally from China or Korea. Japanese people tend to be strongly attracted by foregin products even from the past. Also there is a original Japanese made chawan, Kuroraku chawan which is also good for serving that kind of strong Matcha. For drinking Usucha (weak Matcha), there are not much restriction with what kind of tea bowl should be used. However, it is important to consider what season are you in or how you feel on that day to choose the cup. For example, if it is winter, use a tube type cup which can keep the warmth fairly well. Also it is important to consider the design and color which is appropriated to the cold weather. For summer, choose shallow shaped bowl with a light design for refreshing image. For a daily use, if you want to use traditional types of chawan, choose Shikibe, Shino, or Kyoyaki. However, for a daily use, there is no such rules. As long as you like their design and they are practical, basically any kind of chawan is acceptable to be used. Sometimes, you can even use your favorite kobachi (Japanese small bowl for serving food) instead of chawan, because enjoying your tea is more important than what kind of bowls are used.

(Junpei Yokoi)