Kettl is a Japanese tea importer run by Zach Mangan. Though Brooklyn based, Zach travels to Japan to source tea in person. For several months in the spring of this year, Zach was on site at tea farms, speaking with farmers, doing tastings, and immersing himself in the language and culture of Japan. Because of Zach’s careful sourcing, the first thing that sets Kettl apart is the quality of the tea. The second is his ability, through carefully cultivated relationships, to bring tea and teaware to market in the USA that would otherwise not be available.
A few weeks ago, I received a kyusu from Kettl. A few weeks before, I had ordered an amount of shincha, or first pick tea called Yame No. 5. Unbeknownst to me, the kyusu I ordered was designed by the farmer who produces my favorite daily tea from Kettl, Yame No. 5. I was excited to try the two out. Below are my thoughts on Yame No. 5 and the kyusu.
The Kuro Kyusu, designed by Shinya Yamaguchi*, is not available outside of Japan. Zach orders them individually, directly from the maker. Because of this, there is some weight to the item itself, it feels exclusive.
It is unique in that it lacks a lid. To make up for this, the front part of the pot is given a large overhang. It is an elegant solution. I use an indigo dyed cloth to cover the pot between steeps.
When I first picked up the kyusu, I remembered back to my first visit to a Japanese garden. My favorite object in the garden, interestingly, was a handrail. It was oval shaped, and ran up a set of stairs beside a small stream. When I first gripped it, I could feel warmth coming through the wood. It was polished smooth by years of hands running along its length. It was perfectly suited to be held, It felt made to be held, rather than just thoughtlessly placed there. The handle of the kyusu has a small indent beneath, perfect for an index finger. It reminds me of the thought behind that handrail. It is a subtle but incredible touch, that makes using it pleasant.
The handle of a kyusu is placed at slightly below 90° from the spout. This allows for a short twist of the wrist to pour, rather than the large motion using wrist, arm, and shoulder that a Western teapot requires.
The ample space (~ 12 oz) within the kyusu allows leaves to fully open. The mesh screen makes it appropriate for fukamushi, or deep steamed tea.
The first steep of Yame No. 5 is often light, with bright floral scent and a smooth mouthfeel. The second steep opens the leaves more, allowing deeper flavors to come through, such as roasted almonds.
It has the quality that I love about Japanese green teas, that makes them the only tea I drink regularly: it is both light of flavor and nourishing.
The care and attention that Kettl is bringing to the world of Japanese tea in the USA are admirable. Be sure to check them out.
*Shinya-san is considered one of Japan's finest producers of green tea and has scored the almost impossible 100/100 in Japan's most prestigious tea evaluating contests.