White Charcoal, Mastering the heat. World’s Best Charcoal.

White Charcoal or Binchotan, mastering the heat. No ordinary cooking agent, Kishu Binchotan has been marketed as everything from an air and water purifier to a mood enhancer. A white charcoal made from the indigenous ubame oak, it considered the world’s best fuel for grilling, especially Japanese dishes such as yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) and unagi (grilled eel), and chefs around the world swear that it imparts meat and seafood with a flavor unachievable using other charcoals.

white charcoal production process

white charcoal tradionally made, 100% natural process

The combination of warmth and light lulled me into quiet observation. I felt the primal appeal of this work and understood why family Kishu Binchotan operations have continued in this way for hundreds of years.

White Charcoal - Binchotan’s recent popularity as a household and health panacea – it’s thought to absorb harmful chemicals better than other charcoals – has increased demand to unsustainable levels, straining artisans who rely on the limited supply of native ubame oak. Kishu Binchotan is the active ingredient in many cosmetics, shampoos and toothpastes; the unburned charcoal is put in closets and refrigerators to improve the air quality and absorb odours; and, most dubiously, it’s thought to be a mood-enhancer, due to the minus ions that are constantly released from the activated carbon and thought to increase serotonin levels in the brain.

Tradional White Charcoal kiln

Charcoal kiln tradionally made using clay and bricks.

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Perfecting the consistency of the charcoal is an instinct that takes decades to develop (Credit: Lance Henderstein)
BBC-Travel Story