What is a Matcha Tea Ceremony? How to Host Your Own Tea Ceremony
The Japanese tea ceremony (chado, or sado, or chanoyu - "the way of tea") is a traditional ritual based on Taoism (Daoism) and influenced by Zen Buddhism in which powdered green tea, or matcha, is ceremonially prepared by a skilled practitioner and served to a small group of guests in a tranquil setting. It's a bonding experience of mindfulness, respect, and a focus on the present.
Our world can be quite noisy with lots of problems, with daily life being quite busy with troubles and worries. Stepping into a tearoom allows us to forget about everything, leaving our problems outside the door so that you can have a nice peaceful time and have enjoy a nice cup of tea together.
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Japanese Matcha Tea Ceremony History
The Japanese tea ceremony dates back to over 400 years ago. Some say that the tea ceremony is at the heart of Japanese culture, with the teaching of hospitality, respect, and Zen philosophies.
The Birth of Wabi Tea
Before learning about how the tea ceremony began, it's important to first learn about the history of matcha tea. The model of “tea ceremony” which we know today was born in the 15th century by a buddhist monk called Murata Jyuko and his apprentice Takeno Joo. They started and spread the idea of “wabi tea” as a way for samurais to find peace and escape from their warrior pressures.
The “wabi tea” was further refined and completed by the most famous and important man in the history of tea ceremony: Sen no Rikyu. The main styles of the tea ceremony practice today were all created by his descendants/apprentices.
Tea Ceremony For Political Purposes
Sen no Rikyu served as an advisor for two samurais, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who used the tea ceremony for political purposes, such as showcasing social status and gaining control over people. During the civil war era, tea utensils were not just practical items, but rather a way to appeal one's social status. Those who owned valuable utensils were thought to have great power. Oda Nobunaga, the samurai leader at the time, took advantage of this, ordering his subordinates to thoroughly purchase the specialties of tea utensils. He then gave these to his subordinates, who made achievements as rewards. He also gave them the right to hold tea ceremonies. Nobunaga used the culture of tea ceremony to have better control over people by stimulating the peoples' obsessions and desires towards it.
The Golden Age of Tea Ceremonies
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the next samurai leader, built the golden age of tea ceremony alongside Sen no Rikyu. Hideyoshi held tea ceremonies that were deeply linked to politics. Tea ceremonies were no longer a place to just enjoy tea, but instead it became the center of politics, culture, and religion in Japan.
Tea Ceremony Today
After the passing of Sen no Rikyu, many types of tea ceremony were developed by his descendants and apprentices which still exist and are practiced to this day. A deep respect towards tea ceremony had become rooted deeply into the Japanese culture. Today, the tea ceremony is still practiced and holds deep roots in Japanese culture. It has become a way to learn manners and traditional culture, or even just to be used as a time of peace to get away from the stress of our daily lives.
How to Host a Japanese Tea Ceremony
There are many steps, utensils and concepts when it comes to a Japanese matcha tea ceremony. This can make it both a fascinating yet intimidating concept to try on your own. We'll break down the steps and tools you'll need to successfully host your own matcha tea ceremony at home!
Tea Ceremony Supplies
To host a Japanese Tea Ceremony, you'll need:
Ceremonial Grade Matcha Green Tea
Ceremonial Grade matcha is made using pure shaded Gyokuro grown in Japan. These hand selected leaves are picked during a short two week period in May. The result is a refined brew with the classic umami flavor characteristics that is the signature hallmark of high grade matcha.
Tea Caddy (aka Natsume)
This is how the matcha powder is transported.
Often, the matcha powder is sifted beforehand to remove any clumps before being brought into the tea room for preparation.
Japanese Bamboo Matcha Spoon (aka Chashaku)
The traditional bamboo matcha spoon is an elegant tool for dispensing just the right amount of powdered matcha into the bowl. Its vertical design makes it the perfect tool to scoop powder out of the natsume.
Japanese Style Bamboo Matcha Whisk (aka Chasen)
The bamboo matcha whisk, or chasen, will give the powdered matcha the perfect amount of froth while also removing any lumps.
Japanese Tea Pot (aka Kama)
This iron pot is used to heat the water for the japanese tea ceremony.
Japanese Tea Bowl (aka Chawan)
This clay tea bowl, which often has a beautiful pattern on one side, is preheated beforehand to keep the matcha warm throughout the tea ceremony. The higher walls of the bowl make it easier to prepare the matcha tea.
Silk Cloth (aka Fukusa)
A square piece of silk used to serve tea and clean the tea bowl and utensils before and after preparing the tea.
Japanese Tea Ceremony Steps
Japanese Tea Ceremonies are an extremely complex and evolving subject, involving precise movements, priceless antiques and a deep-seeded spirituality.
Step 1: Invitations
Send out some formal invitations! Choose some aesthetic invitations that match the tone of the ceremony you'll be hosting. Get them sent out to your guests a few weeks prior to your ceremony.
Step 2: Prepare the Ceremony Room
Part of preparing a Japanese Tea Ceremony is preparing the room based on the season or occasion of the ceremony is being held. Typically, a tearoom should consist of 3 things: a “handling scroll” with a Zen word on it, some flowers from the garden, and an incense box. Be sure to clean the room you'll be hosting your ceremony in and ensure that all the tools and supplies needed are available and ready.
Step 3: Receive the Guests
Typically, guests should wait until the host formally invites them into the tearoom. Once one is invited to come in, the guest should bow and enter the room, being careful to not step on the rail or boundary of the door upon entry. They should also remove their shoes before entering the room, after which they should bow again and follow the host inside. They then can proceed to wash their hands, which is a symbol of purifying themselves.
The host should seat the guests according to rank. Once sat, the host can then formally acknowledge each guest. If you are serving sweets during your ceremony, this is the time when you should serve them.
Step 4: Cleanse the Tools
Once the above step is done and the guests have settled, the host can bring in the Japanese tea ceremony set. They then will ritually cleanse each tool, including the bowl and whisk, before presenting the tools to their guest. This is both practical as well as symbolic, as it is a sign of purification and reassures the guest that they're clean. It not only purifies the utensils, but it also physically and mentally purifies the host and their guests as they prepare to enjoy tea together.
Step 5: Prepare Your Matcha
After the tools have been cleansed, the host should prepare a matcha tea in the tea bowl. While the host is preparing the tea, the guests may observe, appreciate and comment on the way they make the tea.
Begin by pouring boiling water into the matcha bowl (chawan). This will begin to preheat your chawan. At this stage, add your matcha whisk (chasen) to the water in the chawan bowl to begin soaking it. You can slowly whisk the water with your chasen to help the bristles open up. Then, empty and wipe the chawan and chasen with your cloth (fukusa).
Use 2 large matcha spoon (chashaku) scoops of matcha powder (about 2 grams) in your chawan. Pour 60 ml hot water (not boiling). Whisk vigorously in a zigzag motion until a fine foam forms.
After preparation, the matcha is passed to the guest of honor to take a sip. The guest then cleans the bowl with his or her silk cloth (fukusa) and passes it to the next guest. This cycle continues until everyone has tasted the matcha. Once everyone has sampled the matcha, the bowl is then returned to the host for cleaning. This ends the formal portion of the tea ceremony.
Step 6: Cleanse the Tools
After all guests have sampled the matcha tea, the host will clean the matcha equipment a third time. The guest of honor may request to examine the equipment at this time to examine the craftmanship of the tools. Then, they can be passed around to the rest of the guests for admiration.
Step 7: Guests Depart
Once the tea ceremony has ended, guests will depart the tea house. The host bows to each guest as they leave.
The Whistling Kettle Ceremonial Grade Organic Matcha
The Bigger Picture
You might not have all the traditional tools for a Japanese tea ceremony, and that's okay! The important part is to make sure your ceremony takes the time and appreciation to focus on a single thing: matcha tea. Use your tea ceremony as a moment of silence from the outside world and focus on the simpler things in life.