Bamboo Charcoal

Saturday, Apr 21, 2007

Bamboo charcoal is my preferred method of water filtration. I was a Brita gal for years, but the first time I tried bamboo charcoal, I knew it was the one for me.

How It is Used
Chemical Composition and Physical Structure
Carbon Filtration
Minerals in Bamboo Charcoal
Microbial and Antibacterial Effects
Far Infrared Rays
Electromagnetic Wave Dissipation
Where to Buy Bamboo Charcoal


How It is Used

The use of bamboo charcoal for water filtration goes back to ancient China and Japan, where it was said to "sweeten" the water for tea and was used in matcha (powdered green tea) ceremonies. This ancient wisdom is still used today in carbon water filters like Brita and Pur.

To use bamboo charcoal as a water filter, you can either let it sit in your water at room temperature, or you can warm your water with a small piece of charcoal in it. I keep a pitcher of water with a piece of charcoal in it on my counter and refill it as I would a Brita pitcher. When I add new tap water to the mix, I let it sit for a few minutes before I pour it into the pot or glass. For a 2 qt. (8 cup) pitcher, I use a piece of charcoal about 2" by 2". (You can snap pieces of you desired your size off easily, as the material is both soft and brittle.) It lasts about 3 weeks (about as long as a Brita filter) with heavy use in my two-person household. The more expensive charcoal on the market is about $2 per 2" by 2" piece, so it’s way cheaper than a Brita filter.

Here’s an interesting blog on one tea-lover’s experience with bamboo charcoal filtration, including how they used it.


Chemical Composition and Physical Structure

Bamboo charcoal’s chemical composition and physical structure both contribute heavily to its strength as a water filter. It is 85-98% carbon--the same substance used in most modern filtration methods. Its structure is very porous, so it can absorb and retain impurities easily.


Carbon Filtration

The same basic principles are used in bamboo charcoal filtration and contemporary carbon filtration systems. Carbon readily absorbs odors and other impurities from water, including 2, 4-dichloro-hydroxybenzene (a major harmful pollutant in drinking water), chlorine, and chloroform.


Minerals in Bamboo Charcoal

Bamboo charcoal is rich in a number of minerals including potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium. As it filters your water, its minerals are dissolved and it enriches the water. For this reason, you should not use bamboo charcoal to decrease the TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) in your water, nor should you leave it in your water for prolonged periods of time. See Water for Tea for more information on TDS and the ideal mineral content of your water.


Microbial and Antibacterial Effects

Unlike modern carbon filters, bamboo charcoal has the added benefit of a built-in team of microbes working to decompose toxic substances like trihalomethane and chlorine. These harmless microbes can flourish in bamboo and bamboo charcoal, despite its inherent antibacterial effects, which are unique to bamboo and referred to as "bamboo kun." Bamboo kun is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal bio-agent that naturally bonds to bamboo�s cellulose without killing its beneficial microbes. What does that mean for you? Your water is naturally cleared of toxic substances, bacteria, and fungi.


Far Infrared Rays

Bamboo charcoal releases a type of electromagnetic waves, called Far Infrared Waves (FIR), at wavelengths ranging from 4 to 16 micrometers. It is absorbed by all organic material. The human body absorbs its entire range and can absorb up to 50 micrometers’ ion wavelength. The rays produce a warming effect on the body, similar to the rays of the sun, and (yay!) can improve circulation substantially. You don’t get this effect from the water but from the presence of the charcoal itself.


Electromagnetic Wave Dissipation

Unlike the beneficial FIR, Electromagnetic Waves (EM) are harmful to the body in large amounts. They are produced by electrical appliances, including computers, microwave ovens, cell phones, and televisions. Bamboo charcoal has been shown to dissipate EM waves. Pretty cool, eh?


Where to Buy Bamboo Charcoal

You can find bamboo charcoal at most Chinese and Japanese markets. If you�re unable to find it locally, you can order it over the phone from Takasimaya in NYC. The shipping is a little expensive for one item, but Setsuko and Steve will be glad to help you select from their teas (I suggest the house sencha for everyday use and the yame gyokuro for a special treat!) and tea-related products (pots, cups, scoops, canisters, etc.). 212.350.0179, Monday-Saturday 10-7, Sunday 12-6. Ask for the $18 pack (unless it’s a gift and you prefer more decorative packaging) and tell them Vee says hi!


For more information on bamboo charcoal, read the following websites:

Wikipedia�s bamboo charcoal page
Greenyarn�s about bamboo charcoal page
Greenyarn�s bamboo charcoal benefits page


Enjoy your tea!