Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony
Long regarded as one of the cornerstones of Japanese culture, the chadō, or tea ceremony, is a quintessential expression of aestheticism and philosophy in perfect harmony. But the story of how it came to be is an epic tale spanning centuries, including political intrigue, murder and suicide along the way.
The tea plant was brought to Japan in the 9th century by a Buddhist monk by the name of Eichū on his return from China, where tea had been in widespread use for centuries. Eichū served the drink to an emperor not long after and an imperial decree was issued to start cultivating tea plantations in Japan.
It would take another three centuries before tea ceremonies would become a spiritual practice. Initially, tencha, a type of matcha tea, was consumed at religious rituals in Buddhist monasteries.
But by the 13th century, tea had become a status symbol and samurai were participating in luxurious tea-tasting parties, where prizes were given out for guessing the correct variety of tea. The drink was seen as a decadent luxury, synonymous with Japanese nobility, and tensions started to emerge between opulence and minimalism in tea culture. These tensions would come to a bloody climax more than 200 years later.
In Today’s day and age however the Japanese tea ceremony is something of a tradition that ought never to be missed. Below is a step by step guide for a Japanese Tea Ceremony:
Prior to the ceremony, an invitation has to be sent to the guests and the teahouse has to be cleaned including any garden around it. The utensils have to be selected beforehand and the meal has to be prepared in advance.
Some of the steps of the ceremony change from one school to the other, and several elements, such as the time of the day, the season of the year, and the venue also modify some of the steps. There are some differences between the winter and the summer ceremony, mostly regarding the location of the kettle used to heat the water. However, the same general steps are followed in most cases:
1. The door to the tearoom is opened and the guests come into the room.
2. A tray of sweets or a meal is presented to the guests, depending on the formality of the ceremony and the time of the day.
3. The tea utensils are brought and displayed. The order in which they are presented is:
4. Greetings are exchanged. The tea preparer, or Teishu, focuses on entering the right meditative state of mind to prepare the best bowl of tea.
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