Green tea for Japanese is probably like black tea for the English, coffee for the Danes. Japanese do not drink as much hot green tea as they used to, as the western diet has become popular, and with it English tea and coffee. Cold green tea in bottles are very common nowadays, but I believer fewer people drink hot green tea at home. I myself drink a cup of coffee everyday, but may only drink one or two cups of hot green tea in a week. Although it is hard to find time to relax with two young children constantly running around and about, drinking hot green tea after a meal in the weekend, or when eating wagashi (Japanese confectionery) puts me to a peaceful state of mind. That is why I have been looking for the perfect chazutsu to store my tea leaves.
Over 140 years of history
Chazutsu, or tea caddies are used to store tea leaves, to avoid humidity and to keep them fresh. Established in Kyoto in 1875, Kaikado is a family run manufacturer of chazutsu with the longest history in Japan. Their history is deeply related to the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when Japan opened its doors to the rest of the world. Opening diplomatic relations led to the importing of foreign goods, and tin from England also reached the grounds of Japan. The founder, Kiyosuke set eye on tin, and created the company’s first tea caddy using tin. It did not take long for tea merchants to hear about Kiyosuke’s tin caddies, and Kaikado soon received reputation for their high level of craftsmanship.
Even today, the chazutsu are made one by one by their dedicated craftsmen at their atelier behind the store which is located in a quiet neighborhood near Kiyomizu Gojyo station in Kyoto.
There are approximately 130 steps in the making, and that is why they can only make around 20 chazutsus per day. In a time where machinery has become so advanced, and people talk about AI taking over all sorts of jobs not so long from now, it is still the expertise of the craftsmen that have been passed on for generations that make Kaikado and their chazutsu so special to this day.
You will be surprised to know that when closing the lid, all you have to do is adjust the joint line on the lid with the joint line on the body and ta-dah! the lid will slide down on its own ever so gently, releasing the air. My children just love watching this!
“Form follows function”
The caddies are as simple as can be, and I am reminded of the phrase “form follows function”, quoted by Louis Sullivan. The caddies are made from two layers ensuring a tight seal, and the scent of the fresh tea leaves every time I open the lid is a subtle treat.
Applying Japanese craft to meet the contemporary lifestyle is a topic that many Japanese manufacturers of traditional craft face. Mr.Takahiro Yagi, the sixth generation of Kaikado has been passionate about this topic, and his advanced and flexible way of thinking combined with the exceptional skills and techniques passed down for generations, has opened a new way for Kaikado. They present the chazutsu to be used for storing not only Japanese tea leaves but for coffee, English or Chinese tea, herbs, spices, candies, grain, and even pasta. They first sold their products abroad at Postcard Teas in London, and they now sell to retail stores in France, Italy, US, Taiwan and Switzerland.
The simple yet elegant design is also very modern – the chazutsu sits nicely with my Mariage Freres tea cans.
Design with a Danish twist
Apart from the chazutsu, they have a unique portfolio that consists of a tea pot, water pitcher, trays, vases, milk jug, wine cooler, and sugar bowl. This particular collection was created in 2012 in collaboration with OEO Studio of Denmark. I was not surprised to hear that, as the collection reminded me of the stelton teapot by Arne Jacobsen. I also learned that this collaboration lead to the opening of Kaikado Café, but I will save that story for another day.
Aging over time
Another unique feature of the Kaikado chazutsu is that it ages over time. Shouchi, the fourth generation successor started making caddies in copper, and his son Seiji started using brass. Today, you can choose from tin, copper and brass, and each material ages in a different manner. You can see samples of caddies from over 100 years ago at the Kaikado store in Kyoto. The aging of copper is the fastest, where the color starts to change starting from just 1 or 2 months of use. Over time, it will develop into a rusty, dark color.
Copper after 1 year of usage.
The brass will change color in 1-2 years, and tin in 3-5 years. The chazutsu will age together with you, and I look forward to how my copper chazutsu will age in the coming years.
A tin chazutsu from over 130 years ago, when the company was founded.
The store staff told me that it is important to nurture the chazutsu, and the trick to doing so it to gently touch the chazutsu everyday. The more you caress the chazutsu, the more will it age beautifully. This video will show you how to do so.
I was lucky to receive a free tea scoop with my name engraved when I bought my chazutsu which is a service that they offer at their Kyoto store. They will be holding events in Tokyo and Nagoya department stores where you will be receive the same service, and also see the work of the craftsman, so it will be a great opportunity to feel the vibe of their atelier in Kyoto.
Ginza Mitsukoshi: Febrary 8th – 14th, 2017
Shinjyuku Isetan: March 1st-7th, 2017
Nagoya Takashimaya: April 12th – 25th, 2017 (craftsman will be present on April 22nd and 23rd only )
Not only is the Kaikado chazutsu a perfect solution to store tea or coffee, it will remind you of Japan and the craftsmen that represent this country every time you hold the caddy gently in your hands.
84-1 Umeminato-cho, Shimogyo-ku Kyoto, Japan
TEL：+81 75 351 5788
Opening Hours: 9:00-18:00
Closed on Sundays, Public Holidays and every second Mondy
Watch Kaikado’s brand video on YouTube: