Banko Yaki - The Most Famous Purple Clay Teapot in Japan
The first Banko was made back in year 1736. It was started in Yokkaichi City of Mie Prefecture 三重県四日市市. The person who established this technique is 沼波弄山. He hoped that his product’s spirits will live forever, thus he stamped 萬古不易 (Banko Fueki）on his product.
The Banko ware produced during old era was called 古萬古.
Initially Banko was using white or yellow clay. But the white clay was over used and finished. Thus it changed to the existing local clay which is known as Purple Clay (紫泥).
Banko is fired with Reduction Furnace: 還元焼成 . It gives very limited oxygen into the kiln. The atmosphere is lack of oxygen and fill with carbon monoxide. Clay is reduced as no oxygen is available.
With the reduction furnace, the mineral, in particular Iron inside the clay changes to blue in color. After firing is completed, the fired teapot exposes to the atmosphere as door is opened, the surface of teapot is slightly oxidized. The oxidized iron is reddish in color, and when blue color mixed with this reddish color, teapot appears to be purple in color.
Banko purple clay can withstand very high temperature up to 1200++ degree Celsius. Due to the high-temperature firing process, clay becomes more porous and no taste of soil remained when brewing the tea. Moreover the surface area will drastically increase and this will expedite the interaction between water and minerals in clay.
What's About Purple Clay?
Yixing clay is called Zisha in general. Zisha (purple sand) and Zini(purple clay) is different. Zini is the mixture of all kinds of clay available in Yixing. Any clay that is produced in Yi Xing is automatically called Zisha. In fact, looking at the clay mine in Yi Xing from a little far, it appears in purple in general. That might be the reason why clay in Yi Xing is named as Zisha.
Basically Japanese purple clay and Yi Xing purple clay is different. Yi Xing purple clay is originally purple and fired with oxidation fire, while Japanese purple clay is yellow in color and fired with reduction fire. The banko purple clay is in yellow color which is very similar to zhuni in Yi Xing. Chuni is one kind of red clay which color is yellow in crude condition. Once it is fired with saturated fire, it gets oxidized and changes to orange. This is the one of the best Yixing clay that performs very well in terms of taste.
Purple Clay Change the Taste of Not Only in Tea, But Also in Wine and Coffee.
Purple clay can change the taste of any kind of drink into a softer, smoother, mellower taste and enhance the flavor. In precise it slightly reduce aroma, yet drastically increase flavor.
You may surprise that it is even able to change the taste of wine. When you pour wine into the purple clay, it definitely changes the taste of the wine into a very smooth and mellow feel. Of course decanting itself makes wine oxidized and that changes taste too. But the changes I am referring is beyond the extent of normal decanting. In fact, silver also known to change the taste of tea and therefore there are silver kettle and teapot available. In old days, wine was consumed from silver ware. I assume it is not only fashion, but also because people knew of its effect.
It also works well with coffee. It becomes smoother and mellower. If you are used to the taste of coffee served in a purple clay cup, you will not be able to enjoy the coffee served in a normal cup any more. In fact, red clay gives even better effect on coffee.
Why Does Purple Clay Change the Taste?
Some people comment how important the mineral content is. Honestly speaking, it is very easy to analyze the specific mineral content and artificially blend it in order to "create" clay that mineral content is identical with good clay. In a way, it is also easy to copy Yi Xing clay in terms of mineral composition. However no matter how identical the mineral composition is, it does not perfom as good as original clay. It is due to the surface area. The natural clay has higher melting point and therefore mineral exist in granule shape, while artificially added mineral get melted at mich lower temperature. Once mineral get melted like glazing, it drastically reduces surface area and effect of clay disappear drastically.
伝統工芸士 舘正規 Nationally Certified Artist Tachi Masaki
TACHI MASAKI is the Certified National Grade Hand Craft Artist （伝統工芸士） He is specialized in purple clay teapot, Banko Tea Pot. He is also certified as Human City Treasure of Yokkaichi City of Mie Prefecture: 四日市市無形文化財. Ultimately he is in the top five purple clay teapot artist in Banko Yaki.
When he was at the age of 21 years old, he has already been awarded the Minister’s Prize in the exhibition. As it was, people started to call him “Genius”.
In Japan, his work is very well recognized by teapot collectors and tea lovers. His product is very limited as each art piece is Specially Hand Made by him.
Tachi Masaki emphasizes that his teapot is not only a beautiful art piece but it is also very functional. It is “Functional Beauty”. It is the design meant for brewing tea.
On top of the numerous prizes he was awarded in the past, he had an honor to present his work to The Prince and Princess of Japan (徳仁 & 雅子) when they visited Mie Prefecture. Now he is one of the auditors who select the new generation of Banko 伝統工芸士.
Demonstration of making teapot by Masaki Tachi
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