Jun 7th, '17, 13:02
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Kyusu: Hokujo, Gisui

by MmBuddha » Jun 7th, '17, 13:02

I'm very new to Japanese tea and teaware, but I've been finding out what I can about kyusu and Japanese craftsmen online, and I'd really like to buy a good, handmade pot sometime soon.

My favourite pot makers I've come across so far are Hokujo and Gisui. I'm basing this largely on esthetic preferences, I love the form and appearance of their pots in particular, but I know the former has some fans around here in terms of the effects of his clay too. Gisui I've heard less about, but I love the understated style of his pots and would like to know more.

I hoped I might ask if anyone here has owned or used the kyusu of both (or either) of these craftsmen, and if there's anything you could tell me about the differences in their clay, how the tea made in either might differ. Or simply any differences between the two I should take into account.

On a related subject, I've heard teachatter's mention how well Hokujo's pots work with Chinese/Taiwanese teas (gaoshan I've heard mention of in particular). If anyone has tried high mountain oolong etc in a Gisui pot I'd love to hear your impressions.

Thanks for any advice you can give me.

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Jun 7th, '17, 20:29
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Re: Kyusu: Hokujo, Gisui

by Ferg » Jun 7th, '17, 20:29

We seem to have similar tastes. I too consider Gisui and Hokujo among my favorite pot makers...of the pots I currently own and use so far at least. :)

The following is only my advice based on my experience. It's by no means an end-all be-all. You'll find that each has their own preferences, including yourself, over time.

My first recommendation would be to focus on size. While my preferred Yixing size is 100ml, I tend to like kyusu sized between 150-250ml, with 200ml really being the sweet spot. Simply put, you don't need to fill a pot to the brim with water as you often would with an Yixing. Think more along the lines or halfway or even three quarters. I believe the reason for this is multiple factors. Sencha is a much more finicky tea compared to Chinese or Taiwanese varietals. I speculate that filling it up at half capacity is easier on the tea as far as temps go, allowing some room for the leaves and water to breathe within the pot. In the initial steeps I'll often fill up half way, working my way up in both water volume and temperature in subsequent steeps. By the fourth or fifth steep, I'm filling it up all the way at near boiling, in the attempt to extract as much remaining caffeine as possible. What can I say, I'm a caffeine addict at heart! :lol:

Next consider clay. You can go shudei (red) or high-fired (greys and darker varieties). The Hokujo's I've seen all tend to look high fired. Victoria has referred to his works as stoneware and I would have to agree. The higher firing leads to more pronounced aromatics and perhaps taste. Whereas the shudei variety leads to a greater body and mouthfeel. If brewing water alone, you'll taste the clay more from a shudei pot as it closer to the original mud/clay. At the end of a session, I will drink leftover water from my Gisui yuzamashi (water cooler). I can really taste the clay, but I love it. I think it also adds to a tea. If you want to taste the tea alone, porcelain or banko may be your best bet. However, personally, I would only reach for a clay pot when brewing. Typically, I think it's best to start with a shudei pot, in the case of Gisui, and work your way up to high-fired. You're going to get high-fired with Hokujo almost regardless.

After considering both size and shape, you can turn to the subject of filters. With regards to these particular potters, you'll find the following for each: Gisui mostly does direct wall (holes are punched directly into the body of the pot) and some bulb (looks like a half ball punched with many little holes, reminiscent of a spider's eyes). Hokujo primarily does sesame filter (flatter surface with many uniform holes covering a wider area), direct wall, and some bulb. I believe Gisui's direct walls are better of the two, but you have to be careful in selecting a pot. Oftentimes, his spout walls will butt up against the filter, rendering it useless in areas and leading to a slower pour. For Hokujo, I would recommend sesame. I haven't had one myself, but I guess that this filter can handle most any sencha with ease. Direct wall works great with asamushi (light-steamed sencha) whereas sesame and bulbs are better for fukamushi (deep-steamed sencha).

Next is pot shape. A general guide is rounder pots are good for asa, taller for fuka, and flat for gyokuro. I could go on about filters and shapes, but this is a good intro.

No need to spend a lot of money in either case. In other words, don't do what I do. Higher priced pots have a negligible effect upon the brewing and taste of tea. Higher end pots are acquired more for aesthetics in my opinion. I wish I would listen to my own advice.

Here are a couple good starter pots if you're set on one of these makers:
Gisui - http://www.ebay.com/itm/Tokoname-Shudei ... SwcUBYVeoH
Hokujo - http://www.ebay.com/itm/Tokoname-Hand-m ... Sw9NdXvEbE

Some higher-end ones if you prefer the shape, size, and/or mogake (fired-seaweed):
http://artisticnippon.com/product/tokon ... ot_18.html
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Tokoname-Hand-m ... Sw9NdXwX6S

Others can speak more on using kyusu, specifically Hokujo, for Taiwanese oolong. I know they have quite the following. I prefer to stick to country of origin in pairing tea and pots. Only my take on this.

Hope this helps in your journey into Japanese tea. Holy crap, didn't realize I wrote that much. Oh well, enjoy reading.

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Jun 7th, '17, 22:18
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Re: Kyusu: Hokujo, Gisui

by kyarazen » Jun 7th, '17, 22:18

MmBuddha wrote: I'm very new to Japanese tea and teaware, but I've been finding out what I can about kyusu and Japanese craftsmen online, and I'd really like to buy a good, handmade pot sometime soon.

My favourite pot makers I've come across so far are Hokujo and Gisui. I'm basing this largely on esthetic preferences, I love the form and appearance of their pots in particular, but I know the former has some fans around here in terms of the effects of his clay too. Gisui I've heard less about, but I love the understated style of his pots and would like to know more.

I hoped I might ask if anyone here has owned or used the kyusu of both (or either) of these craftsmen, and if there's anything you could tell me about the differences in their clay, how the tea made in either might differ. Or simply any differences between the two I should take into account.

On a related subject, I've heard teachatter's mention how well Hokujo's pots work with Chinese/Taiwanese teas (gaoshan I've heard mention of in particular). If anyone has tried high mountain oolong etc in a Gisui pot I'd love to hear your impressions.

Thanks for any advice you can give me.
gisui's shudei, both regular and pearskin's one of the nicest clays for use with taiwanese gaoshan.

hokujo's pots are reduction fired with high firing, so it gives very nice details with chinese/taiwanese teas, and works its properties towards the aromatic portions.

gisui's shudei's oxidation fired, high density, well fired, does not rob details unlike purple clay from yixing that has higher porosity.

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Jun 7th, '17, 23:14
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Re: Kyusu: Hokujo, Gisui

by victoria3 » Jun 7th, '17, 23:14

This thread reminds me why I like teachat and it is encouraging my TAD. I grab Hokujo's high fired stoneware when I'm steeping roasted oolongs, brings out the aromatics while maintaining body. The clay is rich in iron smoothing out tannic notes. Recently, I posted about Hokujo viewtopic.php?f=90&t=12445&start=1230

For greener oolongs like LiShan or DaYuLing, I like Shudei or Hongni clays, both smooth, soften the experience and seem to encourage a lingering palate of flavors. I don't have Gisui but do have Shimizu Ken shudei pots which I believe are similar or the same clays.

My recommendation is go with the one you feel is the most aesthetically pleasing, that matches the type of teas you enjoy at this moments, and also takes into account many of the factors ferg and kyarazen pointed out. One beautifully made pot will led to another and....another.

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Jun 7th, '17, 23:55
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Re: Kyusu: Hokujo, Gisui

by Ferg » Jun 7th, '17, 23:55

Thanks Victoria and kz for chiming in on Hokujo or Gisui clay pairing for Chinese/Taiwanese teas.

Forgot to mention, if you decide to go sencha, the main reason for filling up halfway is due to the nature of the Japanese tea leaf itself. Fukamushi can be liking drinking mush, so you have the added benefit of having distance between leaves/water at lower height than the filter. Depending on the angle poured, straight down or tilted at an angle, this gives an added advantage in allowing for a quicker pour with less clogging. Crucial for the deep-steamed teas, but even asa can get slow on the later steeps.

Jun 8th, '17, 07:22
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Re: Kyusu: Hokujo, Gisui

by MmBuddha » Jun 8th, '17, 07:22

Thank you very much for your helpful replies everyone.

It sounds like either crafstman would be a great choice for both Japanese greens and Taiwanese oolong—if I've understood the general feeling, Gisui's clay being the more porous of the two (and consequently enhancing the body) and Hokujo's clay, being higher fired, enhancing the aromatics and high notes of the tea. I must say having to decide between the two is a nice problem to have.

I think part of my confusion is that I haven't settled on which tea I'm looking to buy for yet, although I'm beginning to feel a little clearer. In regards to kyusu size for sencha Ferg, I was thinking along the same lines, somewhere in the 180-200ml range especially. This is only based on looking at pictures (and mentally comparing to my yixing), but I'd have thought that would be a good size for one if filled part way, and could be brewed to near the brim if making sencha for two. I'd have thought I'd be focusing on Asamushi at first as I'd like to gain an appreciation for the traditional style, and all the kyusu i've been looking at are direct hold filters.

I'd love to hear some opinions on kyusu size if dedicating to gaoshan, for example. I was thinking somewhere in the 100-120ml range. Do you think slightly larger (e.g. 120ml) is better for rolled oolongs than a smaller size?

After that it really comes down the clay and tea pairing, as I love both crafstman's work and would be delighted with either. If I were to look for a kyusu for gaoshan first, it sounds like Hokujo's clay is likely to bring out the aromatics, and Gisui's shudei giving a lightly more rounding effect? For those who use these Japanese clays with Gaoshan (or let's say rolled taiwanese oolongs in general), if you could only use one of these pots for this genre of tea, do you know which you'd prefer?

Sorry for this rambling message, and thank you for your advice, it's incredibly helpful.

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Jun 16th, '17, 15:33
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Re: Kyusu: Hokujo, Gisui

by TORamarn » Jun 16th, '17, 15:33

I personally used shudei clay more often than Hokujo's when brewing gaoshan. I feel that Hokujo's clay modifies the tea's flavor profile in its own way. Shudei mainly enhances the taste, softens the mouthfeel and increases/lengthens the aftertaste whilst keeping the basic flavor profile. If you are more of a purist, go for shudei. If you prefer something more colorful, you *may* like Hokujo's. Another thing with Hokujo's is that he usually makes bigger sizes, around ~200ml.

FYI, Gisui's yellow shudei is a bit different than most red shudei. I feel that the red clay enhances the taste more strongly.

Anyway, all of them are good. Get one each! :lol:
MmBuddha wrote: If I were to look for a kyusu for gaoshan first, it sounds like Hokujo's clay is likely to bring out the aromatics, and Gisui's shudei giving a lightly more rounding effect? For those who use these Japanese clays with Gaoshan (or let's say rolled taiwanese oolongs in general), if you could only use one of these pots for this genre of tea, do you know which you'd prefer?

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