Japanese Tea Ceremony (Part II) - Rivertea Blog
Carmen Rotaru | On 04, Apr 2013
Tea is much more than a simple beverage, tea represents history and tradition; that is why the Japanese developed their world famous Japanese tea ceremony. Discover the different types of Japanese tea ceremonies and the tools needed if you plan one yourself.
Last week, the first part of the article focused on the philosophy of the Japanese tea ceremony and its interesting centuries old history. This week we will talk about the different types and philosophies of Japanese tea ceremony and the tools needed for performing the ritual.
Types of Japanese Tea Ceremonies
The Japanese Tea Ceremony depends very much on the evolution of tea year, being a highly seasonal ritual. There are various types of ceremonies spread throughout the year, depending on the season. There are also ceremonies which depend on the time of the day they are held. There are also various philosophies regarding the tea ceremony according to the School of Japanese Tea Ceremony, so we can talk about many ritual types, each with its own characteristics, tools and specific steps.
This is the first ceremony of the year held in January. The name translates as “first kettle” and this occasion represents the only time of the year when the teacher of the ceremony prepares tea and a matching meal for his or her students. Usually the teacher just gives advice and guidance to the students, so this represents an unique event in the year for both the guests and host.
This Japanese name translates as “dawn tea ceremony in winter” and it is usually held in the early morning of cold winters to enjoy the dawn in the tearoom. It is an amazing experience if you can imagine sitting in the peaceful tearoom and drinking tea while the sunlight is slowly making its way into the room offering to the viewer an unique perspective upon the things he finds there.
The name translates as “early-evening tea ceremony” and it is held in the warmer months. This time the performer of the ceremony experiences the sunset, going from the clear daylight to the fuzzy and romantic light of the candles. The Japanese think that this ceremony brings you closer to the people you are sharing your tea at that moment, being a highly spiritual ritual.
This is a tea ceremony which celebrates the breaking of the seal on a jar of new tea and it is held in November. Tea leaves are usually harvested in the spring and are stored in a jar which is kept in a cool place, it can be the cellar, for instance. Traditionally, this jar with tea leaves was stored in the ground on a marked placed in the mountains, to keep it cool, of course. When the cold season starts at the beginning of November, the seal of the jar is broken and the new tea is used for the first time to celebrate the entering in a new season. Usually this tea ceremony is also accompanied by a meal.
This is a winter-evening tea ceremony and it celebrates the long winter night. The atmosphere is intense an no electric or modern lights is used, the tearoom being lighted with candles.
Tools Needed in the Tea Ceremony
For a perfect Japanese tea ceremony, the performer also needs the perfect tools. Japanese call “Dōgu” the equipment they use for the tea ceremonies. To have all the tools mentioned depending on the styles of the ceremony and their main theme, it would mean filling up a book of at least two hundred pages. We will stick to the basic equipment dedicated to the Japanese tea ceremony.
#1 Tea Caddy
In Japanese is called “cha-ire” and it is usually tall and thin, but can come in many shapes and forms. What is common about all “cha-ire” is the fact that they have an ivory lid with a gold leaf underside. They are usually ceramic. The tea caddy is usually used when preparing tick Matcha and it is a high ranking piece. The principal guest of the ceremony will ask for a viewing of the tea caddy as a form of respect towards the host.
#2 Tea Whisk
In Japanese it is called “chasen” and are carved from a single piece of bamboo. Chasen is made of three different kinds of bamboo: smoked, fresh or dried, and the heads of the chasen are either very fine, medium or highly rough. The usage of the tea whisk depends on the kind of tea the host wants to prepare, either thick matcha or thin matcha. The tea whisk isn’t considered a part of the “Dōgu”, though the tea ceremony cannot be finalized without it.
#3 Tea Scoop
It is also known as “chashaku”, being carved from a single piece of bamboo. It is an important tool as the matcha proportions wouldn’t be correctly measured without it. The tea scoops can come in different shapes or colors depending on the ceremony, but are hidden from the eyes of the guests.
#4 Tea Bowl
It is know in Japanese as “chawan”, being the essential tool of the entire ceremony as the tea cannot be drank without it. The tea bowls are available in different sizes and colors depending on the ceremony they are used for or on the type of tea, thick or thin matcha. In the winter the deeper bowls are used to keep the tea hot for a longer period of time. Bowls get the name of their creators or owners or are frequently named by a tea master. There are stories about bowls over three hundred years that are still used today on special occasions. The most appreciated bowls are those with irregularities and imperfections as they are considered to have had a long history, thus needing respect and veneration.
#5 Silk Cloth
Known in Japanese as “fukusa”, this tool represents a square silk cloth used for handling hot vessels when preparing the tea or for ritual cleaning. Most of the times, the silk cloth has one single color, being unpatterned. The distinction of color depends on the sex of the user as for women it can be red or sometimes orange and for men it is usually purple.
#6 Iron Pot
“Kama” in Japanese it is used to heat the water for the tea. The pot has a lit which is removed at the beginning of the ceremony and put back at the end. The pots are usually passed from generation to generation and have special names derived from the history of the owner. Kama are usually round with rounded shoulders and have diverse shapes. Some are turned inward, others outward, while others are wide or narrow or notched. Often Kama have the shape of an ogre face, but they may have the face of a biting lion, distant mountains, pine cones, or bamboo shoots.
Discover more about the Japanese tea ceremony next week, in the third part of the article.
We’ll soon launch our new incredible tasty tea blends. Join us, there are lots of special gifts waiting for you.