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[Photos: Liz Clayton]

A simple handled kyusu (or kyuusu) pot is a wonderful addition to the tea shelf for any fan of Japanese green teas. Though the Japanese word "kyusu" itself simply means teapot, it often refers to side-handled clay pots like those made in the Tokoname region of Japan.

Self-filtering via either a built-in ceramic mesh-like strainer (known as sasame) or an integrated metal screen, the kyusu allows tea to steep freely within the water, and pours off easily (with the side handle allowing you to gracefully and easily pour with one hand). Its sturdy clay walls are excellent at retaining and maintaining a consistent temperature throughout your infusion—making it ideally suited to the delicate and low temperatures favored by Japanese green teas.

You can find kyusu in affordable, practical styles, or in patterns more decorative and ornate. Either way, it's a vessel that allows you to make the most of the flavors in Japanese green teas, with an extremely controlled pour that helps make that possible.

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A kyusu's screen can vary in terms of fineness: ultimately what you're looking for is a screen that allows ease of pouring flow for the type of tea you're making. (Some amount of particulate matter is desirable to contribute to that silty, full-flavored richness that can make a cup of Japanese green tea so enjoyable.)

As with any steeping tool, you'll need to find the right balance between water, time, temperature, and amount of tea. To brew a nice Japanese sencha, first preheat your Kyusu to start the temperature of the vessel in the right place. Measure out your tea—a good ratio is a gram of tea per an ounce of water, but you can experiment with adding more tea—and bring your water to the appropriate temperature for steeping.

For these Japanese green teas, you'll be shooting in a generally lower temperature range than you may be used to: between 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit. (You'll know if your temperature is too low if the tea comes out flavorless and underextracted.)

Infuse the sencha for about 90 seconds total, keeping in mind that the tea is still extracting while you're pouring it. Using only one hand, hold the handle of the kyusu in your right while keeping the lid on with your thumb. (Yes, there are lefty kyusu as well.) Pour off the tea from the kyusu by rocking back and forth with a gentle wrist motion that allows the water to flow through and past the leaves without agitating and overextracting the tea. Not all the tea will come out at once, since you're tipping the leaves against the screen.

Your success will be evident within the cup: a rich, green, flavorful tea with a little sediment gathering at the bottom. The earthy-grassy flavor and mouthfeel will be conveyed immediately. Repeated infusions are possible with the kyusu: a hotter and much shorter (30 seconds or less) infusion the second time, and a longer (up to twice as long as the first) infusion for the last one. These subsequent infusions will have less fine, particulate matter coming through the filter, but will still retain a rich and developed flavor.

Each tea you infuse may want slightly different things from you—but finding where you want the flavor to land is your job. The kyusu will make it easy to help you control your exploration, all it takes is your guiding hand.

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