The Japanese Tea Ceremony in 6 Steps - Rivertea Blog
Carmen Rotaru | On 13, May 2013
Imagine a moment of inner peace while enjoying a small cup of tea surrounded by serenity and tranquility. This is the first image that comes to my mind when thinking about the Japanese “way of tea”.
A few weeks ago, on the second part of the article “Japanse Tea Ceremony (Part II)“, you learnt about the types of the Japanese tea ceremonies and the tools needed to accomplish this complex ritual. In this last part of the article you’ll find out what the basic steps of the Japanese tea ceremony are and what exactly happens during each stage.
Steps of the Japanese Tea Ceremony
The Japanese Tea Ceremony may seem a bit too complex to understand with so many existing types, tools and specific vocabulary, but in fact the tea ceremony involves the practical and aesthetical matcha preparation and the attempt to connect with the guests, and sometimes with nature at a high spiritual level.
The steps of the ceremony are most of the times the same, with slightly different variations depending on the season, school, time of day and so on. The summertime outdoor version seems the most enjoyable as you can also connect with nature while leaving all the mundane worries aside.
Step 1: The Host Prepares for the Ceremony
Preparation for the tea ceremony sometimes starts weeks earlier before the actual day when the ceremony takes place. The host needs to send formal invitations to the guests and to prepare his/ her soul for the ceremony by leaving behind all worldly thoughts and just focusing on obtaining a certain harmony and equilibrium within himself or herself.
The practical preparation starts with choosing the right tools depending on the season and on the part of the day the ceremony will take place. The host goes on by cleaning the tea room (garden, if it’s summertime), the tools and changing the tatami (the Japanese carpets used on the floors of Japanese traditional homes). If the ceremony will also involve a meal, than the host needs to start preparing it very early in the morning.
Step 2: The Guests Prepare for the Ceremony
The guests also need to prepare spiritually for the ceremony before actually participating. They need to purify their hearts and thoughts and leave the worldly worries behind.
Before entering the tea room or garden where the ceremony will be held, the guests have to wait for the signal of the host which will announce them that the host is ready to receive them. They also need to wash their hands in an attempt to symbolically get rid of the “dust” from the outside world.
After the host gives them the signal, they will enter the tea room through a small door which obliges them to bow as a sign of respect to the host and to the preparations she or he has made.
Step 3: Cleaning the Tools
The actual preparation of matcha doesn’t start until the host brings in the tools, cleans them in front of the guests before using them. The cleaning of the tools is aesthetically done with concentration and highly graceful movements.
These movements can differ from a type of ceremony to another, but what is always important in all the Japanese tea ceremonies is the graceful posture of the host and aesthetic value of the way things are done during the ceremony. No unnecessary movements or words are allowed during the ceremony, all the things starting with the tools and ending with the guests’ behavior have to be in harmony with each other.
Step 4: Preparing Matcha
After the tools are perfectly clean and aesthetically displayed, the preparation of matcha begins. We have dedicated an entire article to matcha green tea, so feel free to check it out for detailed explanation regarding matcha preparation. Usually the host adds in the tea bowl three scoops of matcha per guest. After adding the powder, the hot water is also added to the bowl and the composition gets whisked into a thin paste. More water is added afterwards.
Step 5: Serving Matcha
The host presents the prepared tea bowl to the main guest and they exchange bowls. This first guest admires the bowl then rotates it before taking a drink. The guest wipes the rim of the tea bowl then offers it to the next guest who repeats these movements. These movements are repeated until the bowl reaches the last guest which passes it back to the host.
Step 6: Completing the Ceremony
After all the guests have taken a drink of tea, the host cleans the bowl. The host will also rinse and clean the tea whisk and scoop again.
The guests need to inspect the tools used in the ceremony after they have been cleaned as a sign of respect and admiration for the host. They carefully and respectfully examine the utensils using a cloth when handling them with extreme caution. After this phase is over, the host gathers the tools and the guests exit with another bow to complete the ceremony.
The extraordinary journey through the world of Japanese tea ceremony has come to an end. I hope you have enjoyed every part of it. Feel free to tell us your own experience with the Japanese tea ceremony if you ever had the chance to participate to one.
We’ll soon launch our new incredible tasty tea blends. Join us, there are lots of special gifts waiting for you.