What is the Japanese Tea Ceremony?
It is a Japanese cultural ritual involving the preparation of presentation of matcha. There are different preparation styles according to the season, time of day, and the level of formality of the gathering. For those interested in the history of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, here are two very helpful links, here and here.
You might recall my recent blog post on Cha-An. One of my favorite places to escape the city – I had the privilege of being able to experience my first Japanese Tea Ceremony here. (Disclaimer: I am writing this completely from memory as it seemed disrespectful to the ritual to take copious notes and photography during the tea ceremony)
First, we were invited to take our shoes off and then enter into the tea room by Noriko, our host for the afternoon. The tea room at Cha-An (as well as most other tea rooms) is modest in size. Once inside the tea room, we sat on tatami mats and were formally welcomed by Noriko. She started the ceremony with a cleansing ritual for all the equipment that she will be using during the ceremony, including the tea bowl, tea scoop and tea whisk. She performed this with graceful, exacting motions – all while kneeling in a kimono. Once she was done with the cleansing ritual, she invited us to eat some Japanese sweets or Wagashi, at Cha-An, they served some red beans and mochi. After that, she began to prepare our matcha, one cup at a time, again with perfectly precise motions. When the first guest was served, he asked all other guests if he could drink first (Noriko taught us the Japanese phrase to say, however, as I didn’t take notes, I don’t remember the phrase), then proceeded to place the tea bowl in his left hand and bowed to host. He then rotated the bowl two times clockwise, 90 degree movement each time, so the ‘front’ of the bowl faced away from his mouth, he then enjoyed his matcha. This went on until all the guests were served. After that, Noriko cleaned all the tea utensils and thanked us for coming. Noriko was also kind enough to provide more details on the history of the tea ceremony, health benefits of matcha and answer any questions we might have had.
This was definitely a new experience for me, I am not quite sure what I expected. It was a relaxing, escape from life, where I felt I could self-reflect and maybe even meditate. For those interested in checking this out, it is offered on Sundays between 12pm and 4pm. Click here for additional information and reservations.