Hardly any one of us knows what charcoal can do. We’re most familiar with the material from comfortable summer evenings gathered around a grill, the charcoal glowing and crackling, creating the perfect cooking temperature for meat and vegetables. Aside from its use as a fuel, wood charcoal has numerous other exceptional properties: a natural catalyst that enriches its surroundings with minerals, purifies tap water and filters air, it also finds wide application in the cosmetics industry.
Danish label Sort of Coal’s exceptional series of products draws on ancient Japanese techniques of producing white charcoal (Kishu Binchotan in Japanese), a material that stands out for its ecological sensitivity. A cradle-to-cradle system is used to produce white charcoal, ensuring a holistic cycle that produces few waste- and by-products while balancing energy consumption with replenishment.
White charcoal is, confusingly enough, actually black. The material’s name refers the production process rather than its appearance. Wood is burned in special ovens at a low temperature for several days before being raised to an incandescent 1,000° C until it begins to glow; at this stage it’s removed from the oven and immediately doused in white powder, from which it derives its name. The wood used to produce white charcoal is carefully selected from mountain forests in Korea and Japan, environmental responsiveness also playing a role at this stage in the process, with only older branches being used. The young branches that grow to replace those removed have a higher conversion rate of CO2 into oxygen. The care of the forests themselves, meanwhile, is undertaken with the greatest care and watchfulness.
Pernille Lembcke und Louise Vilsgaard, the founders of Sort of Coal, utilised the wonderful properties of white charcoal to create a series of products that enrich our lives in a wide number of settings and manners. Just one of the many uses of Kishu Binchotan is its ability to purify tap water, filtering chlorine and toxins out of the water and adding enriching minerals such as potassium and magnesium; the result is a natural, high-quality mineral water that doesn’t require you dragging a crate home form the supermarket. Sort of Coal’s Binchotan Dai and Kuro Cube are, on the other hand, remarkable air purifiers, removing odours and pollutants from the air to create a clean indoor climate; and the purifying qualities of Binchotan find wide application in cosmetics such as shampoos or soaps, the white charcoal not only ensuring the efficient removal of dirt but also caring for sensitive skin.
Kai Petermann lives in Berlin and covers product design from across the world in his website Stilsucht.
Sort of Coal is on sale since Monday