What is the Japanese Tea Ceremony

What is the Japanese Tea Ceremony

 In Japanese, the tea ceremony is called chanoyu, meaning 'hot water for tea', or chado or sado, meaning 'way of the tea', tea being cha in Japanese.

 The Japanese Tea Ceremony in Japan is a ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha, a Japanese powdered green tea that is accompanied by Japanese sweets to balance the bitterness of the tea. Its main goals are promoting well-being, mindfulness, harmony and inner peace between the guest and the host. Another purpose of this ritual is to have deep spiritual satisfaction through the drinking of tea.

 In Japan, the word “Chado”, means ‘the way of tea,’ and is commonly used in English to refer to the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Chado or Japanese tea ceremony may sound so simple but in the process of achieving and studying "Chado" one must have an understanding of Japanese culture including art, philosophy, religion, architecture, landscape, crafts, and cuisine.

Where it all began?

Tea Drinking began in China and it was during the 9th century when a Buddhist monk discovered a powdered green tea called matcha and brought it to Japan during the end of the 12th century when relations and cultural exchanges between the two countries reached its peak. It was introduced to Japan by Buddhist monk Eisai on his return from China. He also took tea seeds back with him, which eventually produced tea that was considered to be the most superb quality in all of Japan to this day. The use of this powdered green tea was widely known during this time most especially by the elite monks and noble warlords. The drinking of tea for the Buddhists was also considered a type of meditation and it was also used in religious rituals. During the 13th century, the Japanese Tea Ceremony became a status symbol among the Warrior class or Samurais. They had started to make a tea tasting contest wherein participants would get extravagant gifts in guessing the most quality tea that was produced from Kyoto. As for the Noblemen, tea was considered a form of medication and status symbol.

The use of Japanese tea developed as a "transformative practice" and began to evolve its own aesthetic, in particular, that of wabi-sabi principles. "Wabi" represents the inner, or spiritual, experiences of human lives. Its original meaning indicated quiet or sober refinement, or subdued taste "characterized by humility, restraint, simplicity, naturalism, profundity, imperfection, and asymmetry" and "emphasizes simple, unadorned objects and architectural space, and celebrates the mellow beauty that time and care to impart to materials."Sabi", on the other hand, represents the outer, or material side of life. Originally, it meant "worn", "weathered", or "decayed". Particularly among the nobility, understanding emptiness was considered the most effective means to spiritual awakening, while embracing imperfection was honored as a reminder to cherish one's unpolished and unfinished nature – considered to be the first step to "satori", or enlightenment.

By the 17th century, the tea ceremony had become so popular that everyone was getting involved, not just the upper classes. The ceremony was now firmly established in Japanese culture and came to epitomize four essential qualities of everyday life in Japan.

Tea Philosophy

tea room

Wa, Kei, Sei, Jaku - “harmony, respect, purity, tranquility.”

  • wa (harmony) - stands for harmony. As there is harmony in nature, the Teishu will try to bring this quality into the tea room and the garden around the tea house. The utensils used during the tea ceremony are in harmony with each other, so the theme is the same as well as the colors. The tea garden should be an extension of the natural flora surrounding it.
  • kei (respect) - stands for respect. The guests must respect all things, all matters without involving their status or position in life. They must crawl through a small entrance called Nijiriguchi to get into the room. In the room they will all kneel down and bow to the hanging scroll, they will sit next to each other in Seiza position on the Tatami. Respect is also shown by carefully handling and observing the tea bowl and other objects during Haiken.
  • sei (purity) - stands for purity. Crawling into the tea room, one is to leave behind all thoughts and worries of daily life. The tea room or Chashitsu is a different world where one can re-vitalize, slow down, and enjoy the presence of friends. The gesture of purity is enhanced by the ritual cleaning of the Chawan (tea bowl), Natsume (tea caddy), Chashaku (tea scoop), and Kensui (wastewater receptacle/ bowl) lit by the host. The real grandmaster of tea does not perform the Japanese tea ceremony from memory but from a pure heart.
  • jaku (elegance and tranquillity) - stands for tranquility. Only after the first three concepts (harmony, respect, and purity) are discovered, experienced and embraced, can people finally embody tranquility. This was one of the teachings of the Japanese tea ceremony master Sen no Rikyu (1522 – 1591).

The way of tea continued to spread throughout the country and later developed not only from the court and samurai class, but also towards the townspeople. Many schools of Japanese tea ceremony have evolved through the long history of chadō and are active today.

Well known persons associated with a Japanese tea ceremony in History

Murata Juko is known in Japanese cultural history as the founder of the Japanese tea ceremony and later proposed a tea ceremony with more simplicity, which later came to be known as the wabicha style.

Sen no Rikyū who developed "Wabi-cha" and put the tea ceremony on a more rigorous and profound philosophical footing. He combined the four Taoist principles of harmony, respect, purity, and serenity with the preparation of the tea, the decor of the room and the utensils.

Thanks to his efforts, which were both practical and intellectual, drinking tea in highly ritualised and thoughtful ways, in particular buildings which he helped to design, became an integral part of Zen Buddhist practice; as central to this spiritual philosophy as poetry or meditation. Rikyū promoted an alternative set of values which he termed wabi-sabi — a compound word combining wabi, or simplicity, with sabi, an appreciation of the imperfect. Across fields ranging from architecture to interior design, philosophy to literature, Rikyū awakened in the Japanese a taste for the pared down and the authentic, for the undecorated and the humble. He drew up the “seven secrets of the way of tea”, which serve as a guide to prepare the ceremony:

              Prepare a delicious bowl of tea

             Put charcoal on the fire to heat the water

             Arrange flowers the way they are in the field

             Express coolness in summer and heat in winter

             Always be ahead of time

             Be ready for rain, even if it is not raining

             Give all your attention to every one of your guests

 In this we may see that the Japanese tea ceremony is not just about drinking a cup of tea but a deeper understanding in the cultural tea ceremony of Japan that combines silence, respect, symbolic purification, several arts, such as the manners of entertaining guests, the arrangement of tea rooms, tea utensils, and Japanese sweets.

What is the difference of Urasenke and Omotesenke

There are three(3) primary schools of the Japanese tea ceremony. The Urasenke, Omotesenke, and Mushakojisenke in which they are known as the san-Senke or "three Sen houses/families'' altogether, which was taken from the name "Sen no Rikyu", the great grandfather of the founders of the three primary schools of the Japanese tea ceremony. The three mentioned schools above are said to be the main schools because of the bloodline connecting them to the grand master or developer of the tea ceremony Sen no Rikyu, and because they have the biggest following of students. All three Sen family schools apply "Sen" in the name of their school.

 Urasenke school was established by Sen Sōshitsu in 1622-97. The word Urasenke came from the two words "ura" and "senke". Ura which means "back" and Senke which means "house of sen". The Urasenke is a tea room that faces the back of the alley or street,  altogether it is the "house of Sen on the back street". Urasenke school design and taste are more on the current trend of the society, why? because their main goal is to satisfy the guest. They tend to use high-quality and unique utensils to impress the guests. Every utensil used was originally made by known craftsmen. One of the Urasenke school styles in preparing the tea is to whisked the Macha or powdered green tea firmly so that the top part of the tea will have a layer of foam similar to a cappuccino. Probably the most followed school among the three main schools of Japanese Tea ceremony.

 On the other hand, Omotosenke school was established way back 1613-72 by Koushin Sousaon and it is a tea room facing the front or main street, opposite of the meaning of Urasenke. Omotesenke was also derived from the two words Omote meaning "front" and Senke stands for the house of Sen. Due to its location this school is the teahouse on the front street. If Urasenke school firmly whisks the matcha tea to create a foam-like at the top of the tea, Omotesenke school has some foam on top of the tea too but leaves, what is referred to as a "lake", in the center open and free of foam. The Omotesenke school prefers simplicity compared to the Urasenke school.
And also the second biggest school of the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Omotesenke school also uses Susudake which is smoked-bamboo or darkened-bamboo for its Chasen, versus Urasenke school prefers to use a blank, untreated bamboo for its Chasen.

Some people say that Urasenke school likes to flaunt its most expensive and valuable Utensils to impress the guests. Omotesenke schools however, wants to keep things simple and plain. Omotesenke school may prefer simplicity over anything else but this does not mean that it is cheap or not into satisfying the guest, but that more consideration is given to balance various utensils so that they will each receive adequate attention and will not be outshined.

Between Urasenke school and Omotesenke school, Omotesenke gives the vibes of a traditional tea ceremony.

What is the important thing you can learn in the tea ceremony?

chado lessonThere are a lot of things that can be learned from the Japanese Tea ceremony. Some of those are:

*The Japanese Tea Ceremony is not just about a simple gathering but rather a ceremony that gives inner peace to both the guest and host while enjoying the aesthetic view it offers.

*The Japanese Tea Ceremony may offer three different schools and it may have a different way of approach on how to offer their services but one thing is in common, it is a cultural ritual that may put together everyone's differences for it represents respect for both the guest and host for it to work out perfectly.

*It may seem simple but in order to fulfill this ceremony one must have a deeper appreciation and understanding regarding Japanese culture. Tea room etiquette is also important and should be followed as a sign of respect to your hosts.

*Preparing tea in this ceremony means pouring all one's attention into the predefined movements. The whole process is not about drinking tea, but is about aesthetics, preparing a bowl of tea from one's heart.

*Having witnessed or taken part in the Japanese Tea Ceremony only once, one will come to understand that in Japan, serving tea is an art and a spiritual discipline. As an art, The Tea Ceremony is an occasion to appreciate the simplicity of the tea room’s design, the feel of the Chawan or tea bowl (English term) in the hand, the company of friends, and simply a moment of purity.

*It is based in part on the etiquette of serving tea (Temae a general term for the ritual preparation of tea or the procedures used in making tea), but is also includes the intimate connections with architecture, landscape gardening, unique tea utensils, paintings, flower arrangement, ceramics, calligraphy, Zen Buddhism, and all the other elements that coexist in harmonious relationship with the ceremony.

 *On a different level, the Japanese tea ceremony is simply an entertainment where the guests are invited to drink tea in a pleasant and relaxing room. The bonds of friendship between the host and guests are strengthened during the ceremony when the host himself makes and serves the tea.

*The Japanese Tea Ceremony does have flexibility since every occasion and different season calls for special and unique preparations, choice of utensils, choice of flowers for arrangement, a hanging scroll to describe the kind of tea-meeting and objective of the host.

*And rather than religious it could be better explained that the host will do the best he can by studying all related aspects such as calligraphy, flower arrangement, cooking, the wearing of a kimono, ceramics and much more. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to call it “The Way of Tea” since this would refer to a way of life, or a lifestyle in devotion of preparing the best possible bowl of powdered green tea for the guests.

*The Way of Tea is a subtly variable way to commune with nature and with friends. Deeply rooted in Chinese Zen philosophy, it is a way to remove oneself from the mundane affairs of day-to-day living and to achieve, if only for a time, serenity and inner peace.

Basic flow of Chado

The Basic flow of Chado is composed of a series of acts such as building a fire in the hearth, boiling the water, whisking the green tea powder in a tea bowl, and serving it along with some sweets.

 The ritual preparation of tea is very simple, simplicity is one of the basics for preparing a bowl of green tea for the guests. However, each step of the preparation has fixed movements, and utensils have to be placed at pre-decided locations on the Tatami mat. It is drinking tea and serving tea with a lot of spiritual depth and a deep silence and serenity.

 First step in hosting a Japanese tea ceremony is to send invitations to guests. The invitation is also designed depending on the aesthetic view or value of the ceremony and is sent several weeks prior to the event.

 Second is to prepare the ceremony room that will be used on the day of the gathering. A traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony involves preparing the room according to the season and the time of day the event is being held. This can also include changing the Japanese mats, or “tatami,” switching out the types of tools used and rearranging the room. For simplicity, a basic tea ceremony can just involve cleaning the room and ensuring that all supplies are available.

Third step is receiving the guests. The Guests that are invited to a tea ceremony will typically wait until the host formally invites them into the tea room and enter an interior waiting room, where they store unneeded items such as coats, and put on fresh tabi socks.Ideally, the waiting room has a tatami floor and an alcove (tokonoma), in which is displayed a hanging scroll which may allude to the season, the theme of the chaji, or some other appropriate theme. They will then proceed to wash their hands as a symbol of purifying themselves. Guests are then seated according to rank. Once the guests are seated, the host will then formally acknowledge each guest. If Japanese tea ceremony sweets are being offered, they will be served at this time.

Fourth step is cleansing of the tools.The host then enters, ritually cleanses each utensil — including the tea bowl, whisk, and tea scoop — in the presence of the guests in a precise order and using prescribed motions, and places them in an exact arrangement according to the particular temae procedure being performed. When the preparation of the utensils is complete, the host prepares thick tea.

Fifth step is preparing the thick matcha tea. Following the cleansing of the tea tools, the host will then prepare a thick matcha tea in the tea bowl. Thick matcha tea, also known as “koicha matcha”, is blended in a ratio of 3:1, 3 tablespoon matcha to 1 cup hot water. This thick tea is kneaded with the matcha whisk and is then passed to the guest of honor to take a sip.Bows are exchanged between the host and the guest receiving the tea. The guest then bows to the second guest, and raises the bowl in a gesture of respect to the host. The guest rotates the bowl to avoid drinking from its front, takes a sip, and compliments the host on the tea. After taking a few sips, the guest wipes, cleans the rim of the bowl and passes it to the second guest. The procedure is repeated until all guests have taken tea from the same bowl; each guest then has an opportunity to admire the bowl before it is returned to the host, who then cleanses the equipment and leaves the tea room. This will also end the formal portion of the tea ceremony.

Sixth step is preparing Thin Matcha Tea. The host then rekindles the fire and adds more charcoal. This signifies a change from the more formal portion of the gathering to the more casual portion, and the host will return to the tea room to bring in a smoking set  (tabako-bon) and more confections, usually higashi, to accompany the thin tea, and possibly cushions for the guests' comfort. At this time, the host will prepare thin matcha tea, known as “usucha matcha.” This is blended in a ratio of 1:1, 1 tablespoon matcha to 1 cup hot water and is whipped with the bamboo whisk until frothy before being served to guests. If confections are being offered, they will be served again at this time.

Seventh step is cleansing of the tools. After all the guests have taken tea, the host cleans the utensils in preparation for putting them away. The guest of honour will request that the host allow the guests to examine some of the utensils, and each guest in turn examines each item, including the tea caddy and the tea scoop. (This examination is done to show respect and admiration for the host. The items are treated with extreme care and reverence as they may be priceless, irreplaceable, handmade antiques, and guests often use a special brocaded cloth to handle them.

Eight or the last step to take is guest departure. The host then collects the utensils, and the guests leave the tea house. The host bows from the door, and the gathering is over. A tea gathering can last up to four hours, depending on the type of occasion performed, the number of guests, and the types of meal and tea served.

What tools do you need for the tea ceremony experience?

tea ceremony tool

  • Chabako ( 茶箱 ) (a box containing a set of tea utensils)
  • Chaki ( 茶器 ) (tea utensils, tea container)
    Chaki can either refer to various tea utensils used during the tea ceremony or to a container for Macha powdered green tea.
  • Daisu ( 台子 ) (large utensil stand)
    A fairly large, portable, double-shelved display for tea ceremony utensils. The daisu consists of two shelves, upper and lower, connected by either two or four posts. The tea utensils are displayed on the bottom shelf of the daisu with the portable burner (furo) on the left.
  • Dora ( 銅鑼 ) (copper gong)
    When the Teishu is ready, the guests are summoned to return to the Chashitsu by means of ringing a Dora.
  • Hachi ( 鉢 ) (bowl for sweets or food)
    Sweets eaten before drinking green-tea are served on a Hachi or on a small tray. Bowls can be made of ceramics or wood. Some Hachi might have a lit on them. Together with the Hachi a pair of chopsticks.
  • Hai ( 灰 ) (ash)
    Ash, is usually referring to the ash bed in the portable brazier or fire pit in which the fire is laid. The ash is sculpted into elegant forms which are also admired as part of the overall art of the tea ceremony master. During Sumi-demae, Hai is ritually added to the ash bed already present in the fire pit. This ash will be a little moist.
  • Hana-ire ( 花入 ) (flower vase)
    A Hana-ire flower vase for Chabana is often made of bamboo when hung from the Tokobashira of a Tokonoma. When a Hana-ire is placed on the base of a Tokonoma, it can be anything from ceramic bowls to an old Kama, just about anything will do. Guidelines for a Hana-ire are vague so Teishu's imagination and originality can be challenged.
  • Kaishi ( 懐紙 )(Japanese style mini napkins)
    Kaishi are used especially during the Japanese tea ceremony to place the sweets on and sometimes Kaishi are used to wipe the rim of the Chawan after drinking Koicha. Used Kaishi are folded to make them smaller and put into the left sleeve of the Kimono. Sleeves of the Kimono have long bags under them and can easily be used to temporarily store things in. Make sure the Kaishi is properly folded so that the dirty part is not going to ruin your precious Kimono.
  • Kan ( かん ) (Iron or brass rings to lift up and move the Kama)
    When the Kama needs to be removed from the fire pit or brazier, these Kan rings are attached to Kama to lift it up and place it on the Kamashiki. The Kama is heated by the Sumi fire and it is therefore impossible to lift by hand.
  • Kouboku ( 香木 ) (aromatic wood)
    Kouboku aromatic wood is used together with Sumi to create a soothing fragrance in the Chashitsu. Same as the Neriko, two pieces are placed in the fire and a few extra are put in the Kougou. Later when The Shoukyaku asks for Haiken of the Kougou, there are some pieces of Kouboku left to observe and possibly smell.
  • Kuromoji (natural wooden chopsticks)
    Kuromoji are used to transfer Wagashi sweets from a tray onto one's Kaishi paper. Once the Wagashi is placed on Kaishi paper, Kuromoji is wiped with the corner of Kaishi paper as a gesture of cleanliness.
  • Neriko ( 練香 ) (blended incense)
    Neriko incense is used during the winter season when preparing hot water in the Ro. Neriko is blended Japanese incense in round-ball shapes of about 5 to 7 millimeters. When adding charcoal to the fire during Sumitemae (Gozumi), two Neriko are added at the end, one near the center of the fire for a quick release of aroma, and a second one beside the newly added charcoal so that it takes some time to start burning.
  • Ro ( 炉 ) (fire pit, sunken hearth)
    During the colder winter months the Kama is heated on a Sumi fire in the floor called a Ro.
  • Tana ( 棚 ) (utensil stand)
     This is a general word that refers to all types of wooden or bamboo furniture used in tea preparation. Each type of tana has its own name. Tana vary considerably in size, style, features and materials. The tana is considered less formal than its bigger brother the large utensil stand (daisu). It is used to display and to bring the individual beauty of utensils placed in or on it to the guests’ attention.
  • Tenmoku ( 天目 ) (tea bowl with narrow foot)
    Tenmoku tea bowls are frequently encountered during a Japanese tea ceremony. Both Teishu and Kyaku have to be careful when handling this bowl since it easily tips over.
  • Tenmoku-dai ( 天目台 ) (a stand for tenmoku bowl)
    Since a Tenmoku tea bowl has a narrow foot, sometimes a Tenmokudai is used to stabilize it.
  • Tenugui ( 手拭 ) (rectangular cotton hand towel)

3 important points in choosing a tea ceremony class

tea ceremony lesson

In choosing a Japanese Tea Ceremony class one must consider these three(3) important things:

  1. First point is to choose the tea ceremony school based on your preference because each school has a different characteristic they offer in terms of utensils and manners. -If planning to take tea ceremony classes for a long period choose the Urasenke school. Apart from having the largest number of students in Japan, Urasenke schools are incorporated with many tea ceremony classes, it is much easier to find a tea ceremony class when moving or changing classes, and to learn continuously.
    -if planning to learn the traditional authentic tea ceremony choose the Omotesenke school. Omotesenke is a school that highly values ​​tradition, so it is popular with those who want to feel the spirit of wabi-sabi and those who want to learn the tea ceremony that inherits the teachings of Sen no Rikyu.
    -If planning to learn the manners of tea ceremony without waste choose the Mushakojisen family school. Same with the omotesenke school, Mushakojisen family school values tradition. In this school you can learn the tea ceremony that incorporates rational movements without waste.

  2. The second point is to choose how to learn the tea ceremony. This is a method of choosing a tea ceremony class depending on how you learn the tea ceremony, such as "I want to learn the traditional authentic tea ceremony" and "I want to learn the culture of the tea ceremony casually".There are full-fledged classrooms where you can sit upright in the tea room and learn the tea ceremony, and there are also ritual classes. For those who want to enjoy the culture of the tea ceremony, we recommend the classroom where you can learn in the form of a table tea ceremony.

  3. The third point is to confirm the acquisition of qualifications.The qualifications and licenses we handle differ depending on the content of the classroom and course, so if you are thinking of obtaining a qualification or license, make sure to check in advance.

Chado set that allows you to experience the tea ceremony at home

For those who are interested in learning the tea ceremony but cannot attend the tea ceremony class, we can recommend the matcha set, where you can experience the tea ceremony in the comfort of your home.

Recommended or key points of the matcha set where you can experience the tea ceremony at home.

  1. Benefits of nutritious matcha
    When you drink matcha, you can get the nutrients such as B-carotene, vitamin E, and dietary fiber contained in tea leaves as they are.
    In addition, theanine contained in green tea has a calming effect. Perfect for those who want to relax both physically and mentally through tea.

  2. Can be arranged for matcha latte and sweets
    There are many ways to enjoy matcha. The point is that you can drink it as it is, or you can arrange it for matcha latte or matcha sweets.

Things to prepare at home:

  • hot water
  • Mug (to prevent splashing when pouring hot water into a bowl)

How to make

  1. Put the hot water in a bowl and warm it, then throw away the hot water.
  2. Put matcha in a warm bowl
  3. Pour hot water and whisk or whip with a chasen. While holding the bowl firmly so that it does not move, slowly mix it with a chasen so that the hot water and matcha powder blend in well.
  4. When the top part forms its foams, pull up the chasen vertically from the center of the bowl to complete it. 

Tea ceremony experience kit is recommended for such situations

  • To take a break when you are tired from work
  • If you want to start a new hobby at home time
  • As a gift or present to your friends, family members or loved ones

Home Tea Ceremony" is recommended as the first step!

How was the introduction of the manners, history, and schools that you want to know about the tea ceremony? You may feel a little closer or knowledgeable than when you did not know anything. And it is easy to feel the height of the threshold to get started, but recently there is a matcha experience kit that you can easily enjoy. Why don't you start with the experience at home without having to stretch your shoulders?

Please visit this link for your purchase at home