The power to purify, enrich and inspire
Since our first encounter with White Charcoal we have been fascinated with this ancient, beautiful and most intriguing material, which has the power to enrich and inspire our lives at a fundamental level.
So very simple yet so abundant in possibility, this inherently organic, eco-gentle product hands us the chance to rediscover a life less complicated – free of chemicals and waste and in flow with the rhythm of nature and your own body and mind.
We wish to share the multiple benefits and good karma of White Charcoal with the world by adding our strong sense of design to aesthetic modern wellness and household products that will be used and treasured by people everywhere.
It has been said that the mere flap of a butterfly’s wing can set off a hurricane on a different continent. Sort Of Coal is our butterfly wing, which we hope will inspire people to choose a more sustainable lifestyle in renewed balance with nature and themselves.
We are all part of a greater story
Cradle-to-cradle is a waste-free product lifecycle that ends with the birth of something new and useful. This philosophy has been our ambition since the outset, so that our products may continue to do good even after you’ve finished using them.
The raw material for our products is Japanese and Korean wood, which is harvested by local craftsmen in such a way that it promotes rapid and fertile regrowth, ensuring that a healthy eco-system is still in place after centuries of traditional White Charcoal production.
To continue the product lifecycle of our products, simply crush your used charcoal and mix it in with potting or garden soil. An excellent fertilizer, it will add nourishment and help regulate the PH balance for your plants to flourish and play their vital part in the carbon cycle of life.
White Charcoal has been used for centuries in an endless cycle of birth and rebirth, yet never been more relevant to our way of thought.
The chemistry of carbon life
Carbon is the backbone of almost all life. You are 18% carbon. The most flexible of all atoms on earth, it has the ability to bond with more different molecules at a time than any other common element and it is so light that it constantly strives upwards, wanting to escape into the skies above. Hooking up with long chains of molecules, saturated and unsaturated carbons, bends and kinks, side chains and branches, carbon is the unrivalled master of transformation on this planet, performing a light-footed dance between the material and the airborne, from one transient form to another. Nothing else is this flexible, and without carbon there would be no flow, no love, no life. White Charcoal is one of the purest forms of carbon available – this is what makes it such a powerful life-giving material. It is also proof of man’s ability to harvest the riches of nature in such a harmonious way that the benefit is mutual on both sides of the equation. Still being produced according to ancient and sustainable Japanese handcraft traditions White Charcoal is nothing but a stage of life that happens to pass through our hands with multiple beneficial effects on our bodies and mind, before we return it to the earth.
The power of White Charcoal
White Charcoal is the highest grade of charcoal with approximately 90% carbon content. In Asia it has been used for centuries for its purifying, enriching and restorative benefits and is often referred to as ‘active charcoal’. Despite its name White Charcoal is pitch black but gets its unlikely name from the unique production process, briefly lending it a whitish hue, as it is hastily pulled from the 1,200° C clay kiln to cool in sand, soil and ashes. What is also fascinating about this material is its extreme porosity. Filled with countless micro cavities, the surface area of just one gram of it equals around 250 m2, or the size of a tennis court, providing plenty of room for its ceaseless exchange of molecules with the surrounding elements. White Charcoal efficiently adsorbs impurities from water, air or even skin, while releasing vital minerals absorbed by the living tree, such as potassium, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus – thus turning tap water into pure and pleasant mineral water, removing steam and smells from the air, and even working as a balancing factor for body and mind through the flood of negative ions it emits, which again turns nearby metals magnetic. Yet, despite the intense activity within, the surface of White Charcoal is smooth, hard and beautiful, like a piece of porcelain, and if you strike it gently, you will hear a clear, metallic ring.
The richness of a resource
White Charcoal is made from wood, and yet it is unlike regular charcoal in every other way. As tradition dictates the best branches are individually selected from slow growing hardwood trees in the mountain forests of Japan and Korea. The forests are maintained by craftsmen who harvest from them in such a way that it promotes rapid and fertile regrowth of new branches in a healthy eco-system. The new branches adsorb higher levels of C02 than their predecessors, giving greater benefit to the surrounding environment and providing a plentiful harvest for the craftsmen. Different types of wood are chosen for different jobs; Kushi Binchotan is made from hard Japanese Holm oak, which is a particularly hard type of wood from the mountain areas of Kishu in Japan, whilst Hakutan is Korean oak. Bamboo is used too and juvenile Red Pine needles make an especially gentle quality charcoal that Sort Of Coal uses for our edible Kuro Powder, which is designed to be eaten. The natural minerals absorbed by the growing trees are trapped inside the White Charcoal when it is made and later released into drinking water, the air or skin.
The process of perfection
White Charcoal is made using the same techniques and processes that have been used for centuries. In this ancient Japanese method pieces of wood are baked in hand-built clay kilns, slowly at first and then at extremely high temperatures with restricted oxygen. This allows carbon to be captured in the wood by a process called pyrolysis. Perfecting the difficult ritual of burning requires patience and dedication, so it is fitting that the people who make White Charcoal are artisans, and often from a long line of charcoal makers. Their knowledge and expertise is handed down from generation to generation; the craftsmen know exactly which wood to cut and from where, how to build and control the fire and when to stop the baking process. They use their senses to navigate, observing the smell of the steam and the color of the fire. Although many Asian countries produce Binchotan, Kishu Binchotan is superior due to the potent combination of the best quality Japanese Oak and the generations-old craftsmanship used to turn it into White Charcoal. It is from the last step of this process that White Charcoal gets its name. To quickly stop the burning and trap the carbon the craftsmen roll the charcoal in a soft white ash thereby turning the charcoal, albeit temporarily, white.
The benefits of a byproduct
Even the natural byproducts of White Charcoal production are highly beneficial. The Char Essence from Sort Of Coal is 100% oak wood vinegar in its purest form, free from any artificial ingredients. It is produced by collecting the condensed steam from the heated wood in the clay kiln, which is then left to mature for six months, before the dark and cloudy liquid is filtered again and again with White Charcoal until it becomes completely clear and achieves the highest level of purity. The second byproduct of this process is the delicious smoky scent that hos become the signature fragrance for Sort Of Coal. Char Essence has been used for medicinal purposes throughout Asia for centuries and is highly valued for its deodorizing and deep cleansing effects, as well as for its delicious skin softening properties. It can be added to drinking water as a purifying ingredient, or to the bath tub for a luxurious spa experience, just as it will help soften and deodorize laundry or work as a powerful cleaning agent. In fact, it is probably the most useful multipurpose wellness and household product imaginable.
The history of purity
The seeds of Sort Of Coal were sown upon a chance discovery of White Charcoal in the streets of Kyoto as the intriguing material caught the creative eye of Danish ceramic artist Louise Vilsgaard. Introducing her friend, commercial film producer Pernille Lembcke, to her extraordinary discovery, they soon went on to develop a philosophy for a new company that would bring the finest White Charcoal, known throughout Asia for its beneficial powers, to a brand new Western audience. Extensive testing and product development followed, as the ancient traditions surrounding White Charcoal were exhaustively explored. In 2004 the company’s original product, KISHU BINCHOTAN, was ready to be offered as a test to restaurants and retailers in Denmark. Restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, now four times the World’s Best Restaurant, was among the first to incorporate charcoal products from Sort Of Coal in their food and interior design. The company was properly founded in 2006, and more and more people everywhere are still catching on these aesthetic products and the power of one of the oldest materials in the world. Sort Of Coal works with a small network of trusted suppliers, each of them dedicated to the idea of outstanding design and eco-gentle production.