There are many types of japanese tea cups that differ based on design and purpose.
In this article, we are going to cover all the different types of Japanese tea cups and see what makes each one unique.
We’ll also take a deep dive into the history of each production style, and what you may be able to tell about the tea cups just by looking at them.
Without further ado, let’s get started! 🍵💚
Different types of Japanese Tea Cups
First, I think it is important to mention that not all tea in Japan is consumed in cups. For the Japanese tea ceremony, a traditional Chawan is used both to prepare the tea and to drink the tea. Let’s discuss the differences between the Chawan matcha bowl and the Yunomi tea cup.
This handmade clay tea bowl is designed to be the perfect tool for preparing matcha. The thick heavy clay retains heat well and also conveys a sense of importance, forcing the guest to drink the tea with both hands, and focus only on the tea.
The tea master will preheat the tea bowl before preparing the matcha tea. This will keep the matcha warmer for longer, and it can even warm up your hands during a cold morning tea session.
The chawan looks quite different from a typical bowl, as it has more of a cylindrical shape to it. This makes the whisking of the matcha tea easier, as there is more space on the bottom of the bowl, and the steeper sides make it harder to spill.
Finally, there is usually a small pattern on one side of the tea bowl, that serves an important purpose in the tea ceremony. When the guest drinks tea from the bowl, they are meant to turn the design to the other guests as a sign of respect, allowing them to look at the most beautiful side of the bowl as they drink.
The yunomi is a tea cup designed for everyday drinking.
As we mentioned before, the chawan is designed to convey a sense of great importance, and that is one of the reasons it is used in the tea ceremony.
On the other hand, yunomi are tea cups meant to enjoy a more simple cup of tea.
This is not to say that these tea cups cannot be special, as much work and design still goes into producing them.
In the next section, we will cover the different styles of Yunomi, and the history behind each one.
Different types of Yunomi
The Hagi is an older, traditional type of Yunomi that is made from stone. The glazing style was inherited from the Korean style of pottery.
During the 15th century, there was great competition between Japan and Korea when it came to producing pottery, and a lot of korean potters were recruited for their talents.
This gave rise to more Korean influence in Japanese pottery during this time period, which is evident in these types of Japanese tea cups.
You may notice a lot of Hagi tea cups with this cracked white glaze effect, as this was one of the most prominent styles of the time.
This is another one of the types of Japanese tea cups that is made using a high-firing process and glazing.
The iron painting is actually applied underneath the glaze, so the texture is uniform even though the coloring is different.
This type of clay tea cup became less common with the introduction of porcelain to Japan, but it has since seen a revival, thanks to the help of Nakazato Muan, a famous Japanese potter that lived from 1895-1985.
This was the first truly Japanese style of white glaze used for the Yunomi tea cups.
One of the more noticeable features of these types of japanese tea cups is the oxide markings, which are made from feldspar and added to give color and texture to the cup.
Possibly the most noticeable feature of these types of Japanese tea cups are the small holes dotted throughout the tea cup.
This style is sometimes referred to as citron skin or “Yuzuhada”, because of its resemblance to the outside of a Lemon.
These types of Japanese tea cups get their name from the small town of Mashiko where they were originally made.
The earliest iterations of these clay tea cups were red in color, as they were made from the red clay that the town was famous for.
A potter by the name Shoji Hamada, encouraged more creative freedom when it came to the craftsmanship of these types of Japanese tea cups, so the ones produced in the early 20th century and beyond will have less of this standard red clay design.
This is not a medium of Japanese tea cup, but rather a general artistic style. You will notice this style across all types of Japanese art, particularly when it comes to teaware.
You will notice asymmetry, imperfections and lack of uniformity across the Japanese teaware produced in this style.
The idea is not to strive for perfection, but find joy in the imperfections. In a broader sense, the goal is to embrace the imperfections that exist in life and nature and celebrate their beauty.
Different production types of japanese tea cups
In addition to the different types of Japanese tea cups, there are also different production styles. These production styles vary based on the medium used and the general spirit of the craftsmanship.
These are the original types of Japanese tea cups. There are places in Japan like Tokoname that have naturally occurring high quality clay and they produce excellent quality Japanese tea pots and Japanese tea cups. Clay is heavier than porcelain, but it can be easier to work with
Porcelain was introduced to Japan much later, and it soon rose in popularity. Chinese porcelain was considered a great status symbol not only in Europe but also in Japan.
Nowadays, porcelain is much more affordable, so it is quite common to see tea being served in small white porcelain cups.