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Japanese Tea Ceremony

“Chanoyu” means “hot water for tea.”

In Japan, it is the term used to call a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony. It is a cultural and traditional practice that stemmed from Chinese culture and religion of drinking green tea. It was introduced by a Buddhist monk who came home to Japan from his trip to China during the 9th Century. The Buddhist monk brought along with him powdered green tea which he then served to Emperor Saga. Soon after, the act of drinking tea transitioned from a normal and typical practice, to a full blown masterful art of preparing, serving, and drinking tea which aims to teach the importance of purity, tranquility, harmony, and respect among people.

In order for a Japanese Tea Ceremony to be fully successful, various steps must be followed. This does not involve a simple following of instruction as every act has its own spiritual embodiment and meaning that each person must take seriously and embrace with much finesse.

1. Reception of guests

Before the actual ceremony, each guest must walk on roji or dewy ground. It symbolizes the dust of the world. Afterwards, they are required to wash their hands and mouth in order to purify and prepare themselves for the ceremony.

When the host is ready, the guests are made to pass through a small door, forcing them to show an act of honor and respect of bowing down upon entering the place. The host then approaches them and silently greets each guest with a bow.

There are then two ways of serving guests: formal and informal. When the gathering is made to be informal, sweets are commonly served before the tea. In a formal setting however, a three-course meal is prepared. This often comes with sake and even an intermission before the ceremonial serving of the tea is made.

2. Preparation

The host has the biggest responsibility for the success of this event. The host has the duty of cleaning the utensils and preparing the tea. The host must eloquently wipe and clean the tea bowl, and must masterfully prepare the tea by using the tea scoop to add three scoops of matcha green tea powder per guest in the tea bowl.

Afterwards, hot water is ladled into the tea bowl and whisked to carefully combine the water and the green tea powder. Once the host achieves a soup-like consistency for the tea bowls, he is ready to serve them to his guests.

3. Serving the tea

Before the host gives one of the guests the prepared tea bowl. Both the host, and the guest must first exchange bows. The guest is then given the tea bowl, which he must respectfully admire and appreciate before drinking.

After doing so, the guest must then rotate the bowl and drink from it. When the guest is finished, he must then wipe the rim of the bowl and pass it unto the next guest. The same sequence is repeated until all of the guests have successfully drank from the bowl.

4. Inspection of the utensils

After everyone has taken a drink, the host must again clean all the utensils used in preparation of the tea. Guests are welcomed to inspect each utensil used and examine them using a cloth to be able to handle them more delicately.

5. Ending the ceremony

Before the ceremony ends, the host must gather the utensils used, and the guest must bow before exiting, signifying the end of the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

The Japanese Tea Ceremony is not as simple as it sounds; in fact, it is quite difficult because guests and even the hosts are prone to committing errors and unnecessary movements.

In order to fully honor it, the Japanese Tea Ceremony is not something to be taken lightly. It must be learned, mastered and experienced for a person to truly understand the spirit and essence of this rich cultural tradition.