Tea Culture

The Beauty of Sasame: Fascinating Old School Tea Artistry

We feature many different kyusu on our site. One of the most important parts of the kyusu is the filter/strainer. It is both simple and revolutionary. A vital part of tea brewing is separating the leaves and the brew. Filters allow us to do just this. Throughout Japanese tea history, a variety of Japanese filters have been used for kyusu. One of these is known as the “sasame” filter.

While metal can do wonders when brewing fukamushi, sasame filters can do a great job as well. Sasame is probably the newest form of kyusu filter. It is certainly the most common. According to Toru Yoshikawa of Artistic Nippon, “Small and simple as it may be, the contribution of the “sasame” to the popularity and practicality of Tokoname teapots cannot be ignored.”1 Why might this be?

There are many different filter types for kyusu. Some are simple holes carved out of the pot, others are half-spheres. Some pots have holes that are bigger, some that are smaller. These filter types each have their positives and negatives. The sasame filter is not only aesthetically pleasing but also is quite practical.

Sasame filters usually have a wide surface area and a curved shape. This means that it can brew any tea with ease, include coarser teas. Yoshikawa-san notes, “The regularity of the holes and the wide surface assures a good flow of tea without undue clogging. These types are suitable for all types of tea including fukamushi.”2

Fukamushi-sencha is a type of deeply steamed tea. When brewed, it can sometimes clog the filter of your tea pot and therefore not brew properly. With sasame filters and metal filters, you often do not have to worry about this. You can learn more about fukamushi-sencha here.

A hot cup of fukamushi-sencha.

Preferences with filters are, ofcourse, subjective. However it cannot be denied that some can brew fukamushi better than others. The classic debeso filter (half-sphere shaped), for example, is great for many different types of tea. However, compared to the sasame, it could clog more easily. The do-ake filter, made of holes put directly through the kyusu, can also clog easily. Second best to the sasame is the cera-mesh filter. It is very similar to the sasame but the cera-mesh appears to fit more flush against the walls of the kyusu.

Metal filters are another option you can go with. Some kyusu have metal mesh filters or metal baskets. Florent Wegue, a Japanese Tea Instructor from France, has an interesting take on metal filters. He says that he, “…is not convinced of the effectiveness of metal filters…it seems that one way or another very powdery teas will clog it, and it tend to get dirty on the back side…”3 As a tea instructor brewing a lot of tea, it is reasonable to see why he might think this way.

Metal filters might slightly alter the taste and be a bit difficult to clean. However, they still can get the job done while being more affordable. Frankly, metal basket filters can be very effective at brewing tea, especially fukamushicha (and/or fukamushi-sencha).

What kind of filter do you prefer for your kyusu? We’re glad to feature kyusu with different filter styles and we hope that everyone can find a kyusu that works for them. Follow our instagram and tiktok for more tea-related content. Also, you can subscribe to our newsletter by entering your email address at the bottom of any page of our website.

  1. Yoshikawa, T. (2008). Tokoname ceramic mesh infusor Sasame. Artistic Nippon. Retrieved June 26, 2024, from https://www.artisticnippon.com/product/tokoname/sasame/sasame.html ↩︎
  2. Yoshikawa, T. (2009). How to choose a teapot. Artistic Nippon. Retrieved June 26, 2024, from https://www.artisticnippon.com/product/tokoname/how_to_choose_a_teapot.html ↩︎
  3. Wegue, F. (2015, April 20). General criteria guide for Japanese tea pot. Japanese Tea Sommelier. Retrieved June 27, 2024, from https://japaneseteasommelier.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/general-criteria-guide-for-japanese-tea-pot/
    See the “Filters” section. ↩︎