Serving of tea is part of the colorful culture of Japan. It is an important part of life for many native Japanese. In ancient times tea was consumed for medicinal purposes, but to this day it is still consumed as a normal beverage throughout the country. Aside from having tea consumed by the Japanese on a daily basis, there are also rituals and ceremonies associated with preparing and drinking it all year round. Green tea, or ‘matcha’, contains antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties that are good for the body.
But before we talk about tea ceremony in more detail, let me give you a short history about its origin. During the 9th century, a Buddhist monk returned to Japan, bringing along with him tea from China. The monk personally prepared and served the tea for Emperor Saga. In the year 816, the emperor ordered the development of plantations for the cultivation of this tea. Before the end of the 12th century, a different monk introduced another kind of tea with excellent quality from China. The method of preparation was also changed, in that powdered tea was first placed in a bowl, followed by hot water and mixing.
Tea ceremony takes place according to the season, generally during winter and summer, and the preparation for each season is different.
Kuchikiri-no-chaji (Opening of a New Tea Jar) – This is done at the start of the winter season. The ceremony celebrates the jar being opened for the first time.
Akatsuki-no-chaji (Winter Tea Ceremony) – This is done every dawn during the winter season.
Yuzari-no-chaji (Evening Tea Ceremony) – This is done during the early evening, while it is still light.
Asa-Cha (Morning Tea Ceremony) – This is done in the early morning during summer.
Shoburo (Brazier Tea Ceremony) – This is done using a portable brazier.
Shogo-no-chaji (Midday Tea Ceremony) – This is done during the day in the winter and summer. It is the most standard and formal type of ceremony.
In preparation of the tea ceremony, important materials must be prepared. The Chadōgu, or tea-making materials, must be handled with extra care while preparing for the ceremony. Once the ceremony is done, all materials must be kept clean before putting them away.
Chakin is a small white cloth used primarily to wipe the tea bowl.
Chawan (Teabowl) can be of any size that is available for the ceremony. Deeper bowls are generally used during the winter, while shallow bowls are used during the summer to let the tea cool down quickly.
Natsume/Chaire (Tea caddy) a small container or jar in which the powdered tea is placed for use in the tea-making process.
Chasen (Tea whisk) is used for mixing the tea powder with hot water. This is made of wood or bamboo.
Important considerations for tea ceremony
Aside from having the materials carefully prepared before and during the ceremony, there are some other important points that must be considered during preparation.
Tea room – this is where the ceremony will be held. The preparation and cleaning of the room wherein the ceremony will be held should be considered. Mats for flooring, or ‘Tatami’, should be placed in order. Not only the room itself, but the surrounding area must also be kept clean.
Flower arrangement – Proper arrangement and placement of flowers for the ceremony should also be considered. Arrangement may change according to the season.
Hanging scroll – this is part of the decoration of the room in which the ceremony will be held. A Japanese scroll painting serves to improve the solemnity of the ceremony
Clothing – Proper attire should be observed when hosting or attending a tea ceremony. Kimono is usually worn during the tea ceremony.
Meal – preparation of traditional dinner, or ‘Kaiseki’, should also be considered for the tea ceremony.
There you have it. Hopefully this gives you at least an idea about Japanese tea culture. It is not a simple task to learn and understand this aspect of Japanese culture; extensive study and a lot of details are involved. In fact there are actually schools, group of individuals, and businesses that offer guidance for those studying tea ceremony.
Should you have any comments, suggestions, or additional input, please feel free to let us know.
I hope you enjoy exploring the art of Japanese tea ceremony!
RCDAYANG / PH