The yunomi is the workhorse of Japanese teaware. It’s the cup where you’ll be offered tea at a shop, a restaurant, an office or when visiting someone’s home. You’ll find it in daily use by people of all classes and backgrounds.
Broadly speaking, Japanese tea cups and bowls can be classified as chawan, yunomi and guinomi. The chawan is at the apex of the hierarchy. Simply meaning tea bowl, it’s revered as the centre of the universe of cha-do, the way of tea. Chawans are also the biggest of the three and drinking from them requires that you hold them with both hands. Every aspect of a chawan has a name and has been endlessly discussed by makers, collectors and scholars.
The guinomi is the smallest of them all but comes second in prestige. They are more commonly used to drink sake but can also function as a small cup for precious teas like gyokuro or in the gongfu style of tea associated with China and Taiwan. Because you can’t pour much liquid into a guinomi (there’s no definite number, however 20 to 40 ml of liquid would be a good reference), it’s the perfect vessel for gatherings where serving tea (or sake) to the guests is part of a social ritual, like during a tasting session or as part of a kaiseki meal consisting of multiple courses. A guinomi can look like a miniature chawan, being often wider than tall.
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