A traditional Japanese tea ceremony called Chado or the Way of Tea, is one of the most ancient and
valued art of Japan, and is at the very core of Japanese traditions. Learn the everything about
the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha, powdered green tea.
The Way of Tea
The Japanese tea ceremony is one of the ceremonies that have been celebrated in Japan for a very
long time. It is also called the Way of Tea. The ceremony is a culture in which ceremonial
preparations, presentation of matcha and powdered green tea are involved.
What is Chado?
The Japanese call it chanoyu or sado (chado). They perform in a specific style called (o) temae.
Many people across the world don't understand the force behind this ceremony yet. But those who
know it well understand its origin from the Zen Buddhism. In rare cases, the sencha (leafy tea)
is used. And when sencha is in play, the ceremony becomes senchado and not chado mentioned above.
There are tea gatherings to make the ceremony a possibility. There are informal tea gatherings
chakai and the formal ones chaji. The chakai is much simpler, basically just a simple course to
show concern. It includes confections, thin tea and in some instances a light meal. The later is
much more serious. It usually includes a full course meal (kaiseki) then confections, then thick
tea and finally the thin tea.
There are three very important ceremonies in Japan and Chado is among them. The ones are the
incense appreciation ceremony, kodo, and the flower engagement ceremony, kado. All these ceremonies
mark a very important moment in the lives of many Japanese.
Japanese Tea Ceremony History
The first Japanese to take tea to Japan was a Buddhist monk Eichu who was returning from Chine in
the 9th century. This is evident in a document known as the Koki which reveals Eichu prepared the
tea himself served sencha. Sencha is a Japanese ungrounded green tea. He serves this tea to Emperor
Saga. Saga was on an excursion in Karasaki in 815.
Nobles only did the practice at that time. Anyone else would not be easily found taking part in the
ceremonies with chado. In 1816 and an imperial order was placed that allowed the cultivation of tea
plantations in the Kinki region in Japan. But that was not long-lived as interest in tea faded completely.
At that time, tea was common in China and had been used for centuries. It was legendary, and many
people used it on different occasions. Dancha (the cake/brick tea) was the most common tea in China
during the time of Eichu. The tea would be grounded in a mortar and mixed with different herbs and
flavoring to make it more effective when taken.
Tea was taken as a medicine in many instances. That was the main reason for taking tea and mixing
with other herbs. But it was also taken for pleasure. In the whole of China, the use of tea was
common and widely spread. A Chinese writer Lu Yu talked about the cultivation and preparation of
tea in his The Classic of Tea in the 9 century.
Another monk, Eisai introduced another style of tea preparation in Japan when he came back from China
in the 12th century. The tencha is a simple procedure in which powdered matcha was placed in a bowl.
Then it was mixed with hot water and whipped together. Eisai took some tea seeds with him on his journey
which was considered to be of very high quality.
The first use case of the powdered green tea was in religious rituals in Buddhist monasteries. The 13th
century found tea more popular in the country when Kamakura Shogunate ruled the region. Tea became a
status symbol attracting many other luxuries.
The Japanese tea practice started evolving later as a transformative practice. It began evolving as a
transforming practice regarding Sabi and wabi principles. The wabi is about the inner or spiritual side
of human lives while Sabi is about the outside of humanity.
The chanoyu history mentions Murata Juko as the early developer of tea to be used for spiritual purposes.
He encouraged the drinking of tea, ensuring its spread to all levels of society. And to crown by spread
was the teachings of Takeno Joo's concept of ichi-go ichi-e. His teaching was the main force behind the
development of "way of tea" among other cultural practices.
Many other great tea masters like Sen no Rikyu of the regent Tokoyama Hideyoshi made what we see today
possible. He cemented his ideas by hosting the Golden Tea Room and the Grand Kitano Tea Ceremony of 1587.
This marked the height of the relationship between tea and politics. After the death of Rikyu, tree schools
were opened to continue his culture.
And today, more schools are coming up. They are more active in spreading the Japanese tea ceremony more
Meaning of Japanese Tea Ceremony
There is a hidden meaning of chado that the outside world can never understand. Very few people outside
Japan understand what this ceremony is really about. Even in Japan, many still don't know the hidden
secrets of the tea ceremony. There are only a few who have devoted their lives to the discipline, the
focus on preparing the matcha tea in ceremonies.
For you to unveil the secrets of the tea, you will have to travel back at least 2000 years back.
As seen above, the Japanese tea was originally born in China, yet the Japanese are making the fire
Several things are unknown to many people.
1. It started with the Zen Buddhism
Monks were the first people to bring the tea from China. For the Buddhist, an outward ceremony is
only but a revelation of what is stored inside. Buddhism is about spiritualism, so tea and meditation
are only part of revealing a given behavior.
2. It works on all the five senses of the brain
The other secret of the tea ceremony is brain science. The tea was structured by the ancient
Buddhists to wake people up. It was used to enhance physical and spiritual energy. In other
words, the tea ceremony is used to bring up the inner peace and tranquility.
3. It awakens both sides of the brains
When all senses are awakened, the often dormant left brain has plenty of things to do. It handles
the ritual itself while the right brain hemisphere attends to the beauty of flowers and the whole
room. People see the face of Zen in tea ceremonies when bot sizes of the brain are working.
It is not easy to understand this esoteric practice. It takes years to appreciate what it holds.
Elements of the Japanese Tea Ceremony
The tea utensils used in Chado is called Chadogu. The essential tea utensils are chashaku (tea scoop),
sensu (fan), chasen kusenaoshi (whisk shaper), chasen (bamboo whisk) and fukusa (purple silk cloth).
Before you even check think of the chadogu, you must first understand the elements of the tea ceremony,
- Teahouse: The use of traditional Japanese mats in various ways is very important. The way they are
placed determines how a person walks in the tea room. The arrangement is a bit different from a normal
Japanese room. As much as possible, people must avoid stepping on the mats. There are many imaginary
and real lines crisscrossing the room that determine the placement of utensils.
- Hanging scroll: Scrolls play an important role and are selected appropriately according to
different factors like season and the theme. These calligraphic scrolls may carry famous sayings
from say Buddha.
- Flower arrangement. They use chabana (tea flower) style to arrange flowers in a tea room.
There is no use of unnatural or old material. The chabana is arranged in containers called hanaire.
- Meals: They serve kaiseki or cha-kaiseki in a formal tea function. The ingredients are carefully
selected for perfection. The dishes are well arranged and garnished. And the courses are served in small servings.
Japanese Tea Ceremony Procedure
Varying procedures are depending on the school, the time of the year and day, and venue. Host and guest,
not more than five gather for the noon tea-the formal chaji. On a cooler weather season, guests will
arrive a bit early and enter an interior waiting room. When all have arrived, they will be escorted to
a bench waiting outdoor in the roji.
Then there is a silent bow between the host and the guests after which they purify themselves in a tsukubai.
They must remove their foot wear before proceeding to view the items in the tokonoma. Audible sounds will
be a signal for the hosts to enter the room and welcome the quests.
The chaji takes place in the cool months involving charcoal fire to heat the water. The guest is then
served meals followed by a break called nakadachi. The guests will be summed by a bell to re-enter and
purify themselves again. Thick will be served at this time after preparing the utensils.
The guests bows and raised he bowl to show respect. He will then sip and wipe the rim of the bowl then
compliment the host on the same. All visitors will go through the same procedure.
There is a change of mood from a formal to a more casual one when the host rekindles the charcoal.
Smoking set, more confessions will follow this, then thin tea. The guests will take the tea then
the host will clean the utensils before they proceed to examine the antiques. The host will
collect the utensils as guests leave the team room.
What to Wear at a Japanese Tea Ceremony
Many of the movements in a tea ceremony came about because of wearing kimono. Using western clothes
is not very common today as many students will practice wearing Kimono. Long sleeves kimono are won
for certain movements. Others need straightening of kimono and hakama. There are also silk fukusa
cloths that should be folded into obi.
One must always wear a kimono in formal ceremonies. And those who wear them rightly will also have
a jittoku. There are different styles of kimono for women.
Green Tea History
The rein of Emperor Shennong in China is the source of green tea. The Tea Classic, a book written
by Lu Yu is one of the best places to find the history of green tea. Another book, written by Zen
priest Eisai in 1211 shows the effects of green tea on the brain. In simple terms, green tea dates
back to the 9th century when Eisai came back from China.
What is Matcha Tea?
It is simply finely grained powder of green tea leaves. It is one of the most important aspects
of the Japanese tea ceremony.
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