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Matcha tea bowls for the traditional preparation of matcha tea

While the Japanese tea ceremony is mostly about enjoying Matcha tea, its central purpose is the unobtrusive Matcha bowl or Chawan, as it is called in Japanese.

Japanese tea cups at the tea ceremony

The selection of the right Chawan is of great importance for the "tea way" (Chado). It is the central utensil (dogu) and receives special attention from the guests. It is part of the ritual that praises or informs the guest at an appropriate point about the origin of the bowl.

The value of a masterfully crafted chawan is also evident from the fact that during the Edo period (1603-1868) highly esteemed companies were rewarded by the shogun with an exquisite Japanese tea bowl.

Even today, the tea bowl is the most expensive tea tool at a Japanese tea ceremony, next to the tea tins (Cha-ire or Natsume). Prices for matcha bowls from well-known master potters vary, depending on the scale, from a few hundred to several thousand euros.

The special aesthetics of the Matcha bowl

Of all the different Matcha tea bowl styles, the raku style occupies a special formative position.

The first Chawan Matcha bowls in this style were designed in the second half of the 16th century, through the collaboration of a talented potter named Chojiro and the Japanese tea master Sen No Rikyu (1522-1591). The tea master encouraged Chojiro to make his own Matcha bowl for him. The techniques Chojiro used were very different from those of other master potters. He did not shape his Matcha bowls on a potter's wheel as usual, but exclusively by hand, which led to a unique and uneven appearance of the bowls. In fact, his way of firing was a step backwards for the then well-developed ceramic technology. Chojiro did not burn his Matcha bowls at 1200 ° C as usual, but only at a temperature of about 1000 ° C. When the desired temperature and time were reached, he traditionally did not let his bowls cool slowly in the oven, but took them out immediately to seal them in a lockable container with flammable materials. The burning materials (eg leaves or hay) drew the oxygen from the air and released chemical reactions that gave the Matcha bowl its unmistakable appearance. Raku Chawan were thicker than other tea bowls due to the manufacturing process and had an uneven, rustic look. Because of the molding technique and baking process, each piece was an inimitable one-of-a-kind, matching exactly with the Zen aesthetic propagated by Sen No Rikyu.

Matcha bowls in raku and other styles can be ordered as separate bowls or in a matcha set with a matcha beater (chasen) and a match teaspoon (chashaku) in the Zen.nl store webshop.

Enjoy your high-quality green tea in the right tea bowls!