Uncovering Japan’s Beautiful Tradition of Tea Caddies

Uncovering Japan’s Beautiful Tradition of Tea Caddies

Tea is an integral part of Japanese culture and tradition. From the formal tea ceremonies to the everyday sencha, tea is deeply intertwined with Japanese life. And when it comes to storing and presenting tea, Japan has a rich and beautiful tradition of tea caddies.

Tea caddies, also known as cha-ire in Japanese, are containers used for storing powdered tea, such as matcha. The caddies are typically made of ceramic or lacquered wood and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with its own unique design and style.

In this article, we will explore the history of tea caddies in Japan, their significance in Japanese culture, and the different types of tea caddies available today.

The History of Tea Caddies in Japan

Tea caddies have been used in Japan for centuries. The first recorded use of tea caddies dates back to the 14th century, during the Muromachi period, when tea consumption became more widespread among the upper classes.

During this time, tea was primarily drunk in a powdered form, mixed with hot water using a bamboo whisk. Tea would be stored in wooden boxes called natsume, which were often plain and unadorned.

As tea gained popularity, craftsmen began to create more elaborate and ornate boxes for storing tea. These boxes were often made of lacquered wood and decorated with gold or silver foil or intricate designs.

Over time, tea caddies evolved and became more specialized. Today, there are a variety of different caddies available, each designed to store a specific type of powdered tea.

The Significance of Tea Caddies in Japanese Culture

Tea caddies are more than just containers for storing tea. They are a reflection of Japanese culture and tradition.

In Japan, tea is often seen as a symbol of hospitality and respect. Offering a guest a cup of tea is a way to show that you care about their comfort and well-being.

Tea caddies reflect this same sense of hospitality and respect. When presenting tea to a guest, the choice of caddy is just as important as the tea itself. The caddy should be carefully selected to match the occasion and the guest’s preferences.

Tea caddies are also a way to express creativity and individuality. Many caddies are handcrafted by skilled artisans, each with their own unique style and vision. Choosing a caddy that speaks to your personal tastes is a way to express your own creativity and individuality.

Types of Tea Caddies

Today, there are a variety of different types of tea caddies available. Each type is designed to store a specific type of powdered tea and has its own unique characteristics.

1. Natsume: The most basic type of tea caddy, the natsume is a small, plain wooden box designed to hold powdered matcha tea. Natsume caddies are typically made of wood, often with a natural or lacquered finish.

2. Chaire: A chaire is a small ceramic jar used to store high-quality powdered tea. Chaire caddies are often decorated with intricate designs and patterns and are highly valued by collectors.

3. Hanaire: A hanaire is a type of ceramic vase used to store tea. Unlike other caddies, which are designed to be portable, hanaire caddies are often kept in a specific location, such as a tea room.

4. Makie: Makie is a traditional Japanese lacquerware technique used to decorate tea caddies. Makie caddies are often highly ornate, with intricate designs and naturalistic scenes depicted in gold or silver foil.

5. Cha-wan: While not technically a tea caddy, cha-wan, or tea bowls, are often used to present powdered tea. Cha-wan are unique in that they are often designed to be held in the hand, rather than placed on a table or tray.


Tea caddies are an important part of Japanese culture and tradition, reflecting the values of hospitality, respect, and individuality. From the simple natsume to the highly ornate makie caddies, each type of tea caddy represents a unique combination of functionality and artistry.

Whether you are a tea lover or a collector of Japanese art and culture, exploring the world of tea caddies is a fascinating journey into the heart of Japan’s rich and beautiful tradition of tea.