A few months ago, I got an email from an industrial designer friend, Joey Roth, regarding a recent feature article appearing in the New York Times. Joey is a tea lover whose fabulous Soropot first captured my attention a few years ago.
It’s always wonderful to see my friends in the Times, but I was especially excited by the tea ware that he was presenting. A tea canister by a Japanese company, Rikumo, was one of the pieces that was highlighted. “I’m really into tea,” Joey said, “and most tea canisters are made of some kind of metal. The shape of this is amazing: I couldn’t imagine lathing a chunk of wood into that shape and keeping it as well formed and delicate as this one looks.”
I am often reminded that our amazing universe is full of serendipitous coincidences. Sure enough, within a few weeks of receiving Joey’s email, I received another from Kylan Schroeder from Rikumo, asking if I’d be interested in reviewing one of their canisters for T Ching. I was in heaven!
My tea canister arrived promptly and I have to say, it reminded me of an Apple product: from the moment you remove the external wrapping, an experience unfolds. The canister is placed in a stunning black box, the perfect display for this hand crafted treasure. When I removed the canister from the box, I was delighted by the look and feel of it. Removing the lid caused a slight vacuum pressure escape, insuring that the canister was air tight. The inside was as beautiful as the outside. There was a faint, unfamiliar odor which concerned me at first. This concern was laid to rest once I found the small, black product information card which explained the source of odor: a finish, called Urushi, which comes from the sap of the Japanese lacquer tree, is used to lacquer the piece. You simply rinse the inside with hot water a few times and wipe clean, or you can leave the lid off for several days, allowing the odor to dissipate. I opted to try the evaporation method and the odor was gone within a day. I did decide to rinse it out as well – I always wash products before using them.
This tea canister will certainly be used over a life time. I can imagine a lucky family member delighted to inherit it one day. It has heirloom quality and craftsmanship. At first glance, the price might appear expensive but when you consider the year-long process to complete, the price is quite understandable.
Here is the description of the canister provided by the company:
Core pieces of cherry birch wood are naturally dried and smoked to remove moisture. They are thinned and carved on a wood-turning lathe, then covered with a thin layer of lacquer. The drying, thinning and lacquering process is repeated 5-10 times per piece, taking around a year to complete. The intensive manufacturing process and highly-engineered technique combine to keep tea or spices fresh and dry for everyday use. Its lid doubles as a measuring cup.
Made in Yamanaka, Japan. Available in 3 finishes.
Holds 100 g / 3.53 oz
Height: Approx. 7.5″
Diameter: Approx. 2.5″
The beauty of hand crafted utensils and vessels cannot be underestimated. It becomes part of the tea ritual, that for me, includes handling and using a hand made tea scoop and a hand made tea pot and cup. When I put my hand crafted whole leaf tea into the pot, I feel the hands and and spirits of many artisans who labored to bring me the gift of tea.