In the Western world, drinking tea is regarded as nothing more than just that—a relaxing experience. So, it may be hard to believe that in certain parts of Asia, preparing, serving, and consuming tea is almost an art form, and is truly a ritual. In Japan, tea is deeply seeded in the culture, and this ritual is intricate and highly spiritual. Today, we will travel to Japan and delve into the art of the Japanese tea ceremony. What is the Japanese Tea Ceremony? In the Japanese tea Ceremony, participants must prepare and drink tea to become one with the universe, focus on the moment, and rid themselves of selfishness. It is a choreographed art form that takes many years to master. If performed successfully, the ceremony is a very meaningful and harmonious experience for all participants. Where did it begin? Diving further back in time, the practice of drinking tea itself was first introduced to Japan in the 9th century CE by a Buddhist monk from China. And by the 13th century, samurai warriors had started preparing and drinking matcha tea, laying the initial foundations for the tea ceremony. Finally, one century later, Zen Buddhists developed the Japanese tea ceremony based on the principles of respect, purity, and tranquility. After that, the practice had spread to all across Japanese society. How long does it last? The tea ceremony lasts for one hour, and if food is served, for four hours. During the preparation of the tea, every single individual must observe complete silence. The silence builds awareness and allows you to focus on your state of mind. What is the setup for the ceremony? The Japanese tea ceremony is traditionally performed with five guests. Before any guests arrive, the hostess clears the chanoyu, or the place where the ceremony will be held, of all clutter. This may be a separate room specifically for serving tea, or it could be a separate house altogether. Flowers are deliberately and artistically placed, a scroll which has a poem written in Japanese calligraphy is an added decoration that sets the mood and atmosphere, and charcoal pieces and a bed of flat rocks are laid down to bring in Mother Nature. Simply organizing the charcoal and ashes can take several hours to perfect. What tools are needed to perform the ceremony? • Hishaku – a water ladle • Mizusashi – a cold water container • Chawan – a tea bowl • Chakin – a wiping napkin • Chasen – a bamboo whisk • Chashaku – a tea scoop • Chaki – a tea container • Kensui – a waste water container What are the steps involved? While there are several different versions of the tea ceremony, these are generally the basic steps involved. Step 1: The host must make sure that the area where the ceremony is performed is totally cleaned, and appropriately decorated. Step 2: The guests must arrive a few minutes early, wash their hands and feet thoroughly in a small basin, and change into the footwear selected by the host. Step 3: The host enters the tea room, and bows before the guests before inviting them inside. Step 4: The host then bows before the hanging scroll, then takes his or her place near the hearth, while the guests sit on their heels facing the host. Step 5: The host serves the guests sweets as the tea is being prepared. No one speaks, and guests observe the host preparing the tea. Step 6: Once the matcha green tea has been prepared, the guests are served tea according to their tastes. After each sip of tea, the guests must make sure that the front of the tea bowl faces the host. Step 7: After the guests finish drinking their tea, the host cleans all the utensils and lets the guests hold and look at them, and ask the host questions about each utensil. Step 8: The host takes the utensils and tea out of the room and thanks the guests. The Japanese tea ceremony is a time-honored tradition that is still practiced today, even centuries later, and is a unique way to clear your mind, and build mind and body awareness. For a wonderful selection of Japanese teas, please visit us today at CoffeeAM.