In Japanese, the tea ceremony is known as Chanoyu, Sado, or simply Ocha. It is a choreographed ritual of making and serving Japanese green tea, known as Matcha, alongside traditional Japanese treats to balance the bitter flavor of the tea. In this ritual, preparing tea entails focusing all of one’s concentration on the predetermined motions. The entire procedure is about aesthetics, creating a bowl of tea from one’s heart, rather than sipping tea. Here is all you need to know about Japanese tea culture and customs.

What is a Japanese tea ceremony?

The Japanese tea ceremony is a traditional Japanese art form that involves the serving and drinking of Matcha, a powdered Japanese green tea. Although Japanese green tea was introduced to Japan from China about the eighth century, Matcha powdered green tea did not arrive until the end of the 12th century. From the 14th century, the tradition of holding social parties to drink Matcha grew among the upper class.

History of tea ceremonies in Japan

Tea consumption has a 4,000 to 5,000-year history in China, but it was first introduced to Japan during the Tang period (618 to 907 A.D.) when Buddhist monks carried tea seedlings back from China. Monks and aristocrats in Japan used tea for its medical benefits throughout the Nara period (710-794 A.D.). According to history, a monk offered tea to Emperor Saga, who was so taken with it that he ordered tea to be grown in the capital, Kyoto.

The stages of the tea ceremony in Japan

Step 1 — Make an invitation

The host sends out official invites to the guests a few weeks before the tea ceremony, chooses the tea bowl and equipment for the ceremony, orders the wagashi sweets, and prepares the decor.

Step 2 — Planning

The host ensures that the room is clean on the day of the tea ceremony, that a fresh seasonal flower arrangement is exhibited, and that the instruments are correctly placed out. Meanwhile, visitors spiritually prepare themselves by washing their hands outside the tea ceremony area as a symbolic act of cleansing.

Step 3 — Greet the Guests

When the host of the tea ceremony invites the guests inside the tea ceremony chamber, each visitor enters via a very small entrance. The act of kneeling to enter the room symbolizes humility. The seating arrangement is critical, with guests with greater tea ceremony expertise being served first.

Step 4 — Cleansing the Tools

The host will begin the traditional cleaning of the tea ceremony implements at the start of the ceremony, cleansing them one by one with the fukusa (silk cloth). The host additionally fills the tea dish with hot water and cleans the whisk in it.

Step 5: Make Thick Matcha

The host will next create the koicha (thick matcha) by whisking it with the chasen until frothy, using two or three scoops of matcha tea and a little water.

Step 6: Making Thin Matcha

The host will next make usucha (thin matcha) by combining one teaspoon of matcha with one cup of water.

Cleaning the Tools (Step 7)

The host cleans the tea ceremony utensils after the usucha.

8th Step — Departure

The host will show the guests out at the end of the tea ceremony, bowing to each one as they depart. It is usual for guests to thank their hosts for their hospitality the next day.

The Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a thorough investigation of the five-century-old tea ceremony—or Cha-no-Yu in Japanese, meaning “hot water for tea”—a cornerstone of Japanese culture and a key Zen Buddhist practice.

Meditation

The tea ceremony, which is framed by meticulously choreographed movements, is as much about the pursuit of enlightenment as it is about pouring tea. Within the tranquillity of the tea room, the ceremony’s highly formal framework becomes an object of meditation. The ultimate objective when the water is boiled and the tea is given is to lose one’s sense of self while obtaining inner calm. The tea ceremony is centered on the road to mindfulness.

160 drawings and 40 colors

This book takes readers on a comprehensive tour of furniture and utensils, teahouses and gardens, and countless other characteristics of Cha-no-Yu, and is lavishly illustrated with over 160 drawings and 40 color images depicting every facet of the ceremony. It also goes into the numerous disciplines that fall under the umbrella of the tea ceremony, such as Japanese art, calligraphy, flower arrangements, architecture, gardening, and beautiful handicrafts.

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