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  • Writer's pictureRamona Bajema

Oh...goop. Miyabi Bamboo Charcoal vs. Binchotan

Using bamboo charcoal to adsorb toxins from water, the air, even our stomachs if poisoned, is a centuries-old technique, but it's new for many of us.

So, let's start tackling some questions:

What's the difference between Miyabi Bamboo Charcoal and Binchotan?

Even Gwenyth Paltrow and goop are now hip to how "burned sticks" can filter water and is promoting it. She selected binchotan...

Summary: Miyabi and Binchotan work the same if not activated with chemicals and carbonized at 800 degrees Celsius. (Activated with chemicals? Can't compost it. Carbonized at lower heat? Won't adsorb impurities from water.) Biggest difference? Bamboo grows faster, so is much more sustainable than hard oak used for binchotan.

Now, let's get into some details.

1. Usage: If carbonized at 800 degrees celsius and no chemicals used in the process, then binchotan and bamboo charcoal adsorb the same impurities at the same rate in your tap water. No difference. (We'll discuss "activated" charcoal in another email!)

2. Material: Binchotan is made out of hard oak. Often, it's made out of ubame oak found throughout Japan, but particularly in the Kishu region (Wakayama prefecture). It's prized by Japanese chefs for grilling. (For grilling, you don't need to carbonize at 800 degrees celsius. Lower heats will do the trick.) You don't need to use ubame oak to make binchotan, but Kishu Binchotan is supposedly made from it. You just need hard oak. Hard oak requires at least 10 years to mature. 

Miyabi Bamboo Charcoal is made from...bamboo. It's a special type of bamboo called "mosa," which grows thick and tall. (See attached photo taken outside one of our workshops.) Anyone who has bamboo nearby or in their garden knows that it grows fast and takes over everything. Our bamboo is a "waste product," because it has been culled to protect indigenous forests. It also maintains the health of bamboo groves to regularly cut it back. 

Binchotan pieces are bigger, so they adsorb for longer periods of time. Some companies sell one piece that can last one year. (Not sure if it's accurate, but that's the claim.) In order for it to adsorb for that long, it must be regularly reboiled to kill naturally forming bacteria that attaches to the surface and re-open pores. Miyabi Bamboo Charcoal pieces are smaller and need to be replaced sooner. (3 pieces per liter, replace every 4 weeks) 

3. Sustainability: In Kyoto, Chiba, Miyagi, Okinawa, and other Japanese prefectures, ubame oak is on a "Red List," meaning it is threatened and not to be cut. Of course, not all binchotan is made out of threatened ubame. Just hard oak. However, unless you know where your binchotan is sourced, there is always a risk that it should NOT have been touched. 

Depending on the source, the entire tree is not cut down to make binchotan - just branches. However, if you want a product that can help tap water quality, you can imagine that a tree that takes at least 10 years to mature is not sustainable. Bamboo grows much, much faster.

So, if your followers and/or customers care about sustainability, Miyabi Bamboo Charcoal is the better choice. 

Always feel free to ask my any and all questions! So many sources about ubame are in Japanese. I'm happy to translate for you!

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