Tea ceremony in Japanese is 茶道（pronounced sadou), and it is known as a ceremonial way of preparing and drinking green tea. This is a quintessential feature of Japanese culture and is very popular not only in Japan but all around the world. In this article, we will introduce to you the history of Japanese tea ceremony and how to organize one the proper way!
Tea Ceremony History and Background
Credit: Roméo A
The history of Japanese tea ceremony goes back to the arrival of the first tea seeds brought from China during the Tang dynasty (China 618-907), when relations and cultural exchanges between the two countries reached a peak. During the Nara period (710-794), tea plants started to be grown. However, tea was typically consumed only by priests and noblemen as medicine.
In 1187, a Japanese priest named Myoan Eisai went to China to study philosophy and religion. After that, he returned to Japan and brought some tea seeds to grow in his temple. He went on to write Kissa Yojoki, a book about the health benefits of tea. The book then started to be circulated widely and since then, tea ceremony gradually became popular with Zen masters in Japan.
In the thirteenth century, the tea ceremony became a symbol of the powerful elite of Japan. Tea ceremony rituals were regulated by only the ruling class – the samurai class. After that, it gradually became popular among the lower class, but initially only for men. It was not until the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912) that women were officially allowed to attend the tea ceremony. Since then, tea ceremony has become a popular cultural feature of Japan and Japanese people.
How to Organize the Ceremony
- Step 1: Preparation From the Host
Credit: Morten Rand-Hendriksen
Before the tea ceremony begins, all the necessary equipment needs to be well-prepared. The kit of equipment used for the tea ceremony is called a chabako (茶 箱), which includes a cup, a wooden tea stirrer, a small tea scoop, and a few other items. In particular, during this preparation, the host must focus their efforts to become calm and a symbol of serenity for the guests.
- Step 2: Preparation From the Guests
Before entering the tea room, guests must first wash their hands. This is not only to ensure hygiene, but also represents washing away all worries so that the soul is pure and ready to participate in the tea ceremony. When the tea ceremony is ready, the host will invite the guests into the tea room. Guests must bow as a sign of respect and gratitude to the organizer for the preparation they have done.
- Step 3: Warm Up the Tools
To ensure hygiene and to keep the tea warm, all the equipment such as drinking cups and teapots must be rinsed with boiling water and then dried with a soft, clean cotton towel before being used. The host must warm up the equipment with dignity and concentration, and every movement should be very flexible and graceful.
- Step 4: Making Tea
Add an appropriate amount of tea to the cup, fill with hot water, and dissolve with a tea stirrer or chasen. First, stir on the bottom of the cup so that the tea powder is completely dissolved. When foam emerges, gently stir your hands on the surface of the cup to create a smooth foam, and then place the teacup on the tatami in front of the guests. Remember to put the front side of the cup facing the guests.
- Step 5: Enjoying the Tea
After being invited by the host, the guest will first place the teacup in the palm of his left hand and hold the cup with his right hand, then bow his head, slightly raise the tea cup, and enjoy the tea. Do not finish the cup of tea in just one go. Instead, you should divide it into three sips. Then, you should bow your head as an expression of gratitude after receiving and drinking all your tea. When giving back the teacup, be sure to point the front of the cup towards the host as a gesture of respect.
Have You Tried Tea Ceremony Before?
During the time you visit Japan, do not forget to try the tea ceremony at least once to understand more about Japanese culture and this unique experience.
Read more of our article about Takoyaki, a popular Japanese food.