In the West, drinking tea is a tradition to which we do not attach too much importance. We heat the water until it boils, pour it over the cup in which we put the tea bag and wait a few minutes until we see the water changes its color and when we consider it is ready, we take it out and drink it. This is what we do, but the reality, or rather the origin of preparing tea goes much further. So much so that the so-called Japanese tea ceremony is a tradition that in its country of origin, Japan, is studied in detail and impregnated with the utmost care and respect.
What is it and what does the tea ceremony imply in its purest state? We invite you to discover it together. If you are a tea lover, you will like to know how a good tear is prepared in the most “purist” way, although you will not always be able to do it due to the rhythm of your daily life.
What is the Japanase tea ceremony?
The tea ceremony is one of Japan’s most deeply rooted but also best-known traditions. Despite we have all heard more and more about this ceremony at some point, the reality is that we don’t know what it exactly is and how we should do it if we want to replicate it.
Like almost everything else in Japan, preparing tea is an art and in that country. It is a matter of doing everything with the utmost care and absolute respect. Calm and beauty impregnate some aspects that for us can be every day and without much importance as it is to prepare a cup of tea.
Likewise, if we want to know more about the Japanese tea ceremony, we must turn to the Chinese tradition, the predecessor of many of the customs that we consider to be typical of Japan today.
Origin and essence of the Japanese tea ceremony
Tea came to Japan from China in the 9th century through Buddhist monks who carried it with them. Shortly after, it became a popular and habitual drink consolidating itself as a must above all, green tea.
Over the years, and thanks to the Japanese style of doing things, the tea ceremony became increasingly important to become an art for which learning and perfecting can be devoted a lifetime.
The object of the tea ceremony is not only to prepare a delicious drink and extract the greatest benefits and tones (in aroma and taste) from the tea itself, but also, based on Zen philosophy, to endow this moment with a spiritual character that serves to purify the soul thanks to the union with nature represented in the tea leaf.
The tea ceremony is an event of sensory union that takes place between the host and the person responsible for the preparation with the guest who accepts with the utmost respect what was prepared and is being offered.
Harmony, purity, respect and tranquility are the four cornerstones of the tea ceremony that are always present in this sublime moment. It is as curious as masterful how a single moment that can be so simple a priori brings together so much spiritual power and strength for the soul.
One of the most important aspects to perform a proper tea ceremony is, hands down, the utensils to be used. Everything counts and, like almost everything in life, it is critical to do it with the appropriate elements and quality products.
- Fresh water: the water to be heated in the teapot.
- Pot to prepare the tea: ceramic or lacquer (depending on the type of tea).
- Tea spoon.
- Cloth of thread: with which the bowl will be cleaned.
- Bamboo scoop (when preparing powdered Matcha tea).
- Ladle to serve the tea.
- Bowl to beat and drink the tea.
- Iron teapot to heat the water.
- Charcoal bucket and ash container to heat the water.
Obviously, preparing tea in the purest Japanese style is not easy. You can spend a lifetime learning in detail something that otherwise does not bother the Japanese who work, and a lot of, on the constant patience.
Types of Japanese tea ceremonies
If we travel to Japan, we can attend two types of tea ceremonies that differ mostly by their duration:
It is the lightest ceremony and is used as a time of reception and to show hospitality to guests.
This ceremony is based on the preparation of a light tea (usucha) accompanied by a light snack called tenshi.
The Chaji is the longest tea ceremony. So much so, that it can even last four hours during which moments of preparation and tasting of the tea (denser than the previous one – koicha) will alternate in itself with moments to eat in an orthodox way – kaiseki.
In addition to these two ceremonies which are the most widespread, you can also enjoy two lighter tea ceremonies if their host allows it, which can be held outdoors or anywhere where it is possible to take tea. These ceremonies are known under the names of sado and nodate.
When traveling to Japan
Today, for those traveling to Japan, being lucky enough to participate in an authentic tea ceremony (but those held in private rather than “touristic” settings) is something that should always be kept in our memory of unique experiences because it will surely be very difficult to repeat under normal circumstances. In case of having this great opportunity, we should always be very grateful and value the gift we are given as it is one of the most intimate moments for the Japanese. Without a doubt, they are opening the doors of their home to us and giving us an exceptional sign of their affection for us. The tea ceremony is one of the great gifts of Eastern culture.
We are convinced that from now on, you will prepare each cup of tea with much more full attention and awareness of your movements. Take advantage of that moment to work on your stillness, respect for yourself and the elements, harmony, purity and cleanliness… After all, tea is a tasty drink (in all aspects) that helps us purify and cleanse our body. May it also do so at the level of consciousness in these hectic times.
A cup of tea, a moment of stillness for your mind.
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