Tea was introduced to Japan from China by Zen Buddhists around the 12th century in the Heian Period. They were also the first consumers of tea. The monks would sip it out of a bowl to fight off drowsiness during long hours of meditations. However, tea drinking had only become a common practice among Japanese people 200 years later. Along with the widespread of tea in Japan, the traditional Tea Ceremony “Chadō” (茶道(ちゃどう)) was born. Under the protection of Lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, this ceremony was invented by a merchant named Sen No Rikyu. His initial goal was to create a form of artistic embodiment of Japanese cultural values and the strive for simple calmness. The four Kanjis and the core ideas he associated the ceremony with are “和(わ) 敬(けい) 清(せい) 寂(じゃく)” (Wa Kei Sei Jaku) which translate into “Peace, Respect, Purity, and Calmness”.
Taking part in a tea ceremony in Japan will teach you to appreciate the joy in simplicity and learn to see the beauty in the imperfections in life. Still not ready to join a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony yet? Worry not, keep reading and we have got you covered step-to-step on what you should keep in mind before being part of this century-old tradition.
0. Ease your mind
Before you decide to attend a Chadō session, you must have an eased mind and be spiritually prepared to attend this enlightening ancient ceremony. In many cases, the ritual is not performed until days after the guests have received a formal letter of invitation. Though for foreigners, you may be able to attend a Tea Ceremony on the same day, you still must leave all your worldly thoughts behind before stepping into a tea house.
1. Cleanse your spirit
Arrive at the location where the ceremony is held with a calm spirit. Before entering the tearoom, all guests need to wash the dust off their hands as symbolism to being received as a clean soul. The host will wave their hand once they are ready to greet you into their house.
When you are invited to go into the Tea room, do not forget to bow to the host as a showing of respect and gratitude to their service.
3. Proper Sitting
Once you have taken off your shoes and inside the tearoom, sit formally on the tatami floor. The proper way of doing so is to kneel on the tatami leaving no gap between the two legs and gently put both of your hands on the knees.
4. Tools Cleaning
All the tools used will be cleaned in front of the guests. The host cleans them in a graceful gesture and aesthetical movements, and once this is done, the ceremony will officially begin.
Some of the most essential equipment in Chadō include:
- ・袱紗(ふくさ), Fukusa: A piece of cloth to clean the utensils.
- ・薄茶器(うすちゃき), Usuchaki: A container to hold matcha powder.
- ・茶入(ちゃいれ), Chaire: A bowl for thick leaves.
- ・茶杓(ちゃしゃく), Chashaku: A thin tool to scoop the match out of Usuchaki.
- ・茶碗(ちゃわん), Chawan: Tea bowls.
- ・茶筅(ちゃせん), Chasen: A bamboo tool used to mix the Matcha powder with water.
- ・茶巾(ちゃきん), Chakin: Cloth to clean Chawan.
5. Tea Preparation
The host will scoop a small amount of Matcha Powder into a bowl, add some hot water, and whisk it with the Chasen. More water will be added afterward. Enjoy viewing this process of Tea making, as it is spiritually calm to witness and would take many years of practice to perfect.
6. Tea Serving
The host will bring a bowl of warmly prepared tea to the main guest, and one by one the bowl will be rotated and past around to the last guest. Sip a small amount of the tea and leave it in your mouth for a few moments to appreciate the bitter yet sweet flavour of matcha.
7. End of the Ceremony
By the time the last guest has finished the tea, the bowl will be returned to the host who will once again aesthetically clean all the tools again in front of the guests. Inspect carefully how every step is taken until the last minute as it shows a sense of respect and admiration for the graceful tea ceremony they have just performed. Thank and bow to the host before you conclude this spiritually enlightening journey.