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Matcha,  The Tea Corner

Japanese tea ceremony matcha

The tea ceremony has been part of Japanese culture for as long as matcha. Today it is run as a hobby, but once the ceremony was part of Japanese etiquette. Tea is prepared according to precisely defined rules. Both the host and the guest must take precisely defined steps and movements. Even tea utensils have their prescribed place and order.

A unique artistic performance

The rules of the tea ceremony are demanding even for the Japanese themselves. If we were to compare the tea ceremony to something in our culture, it would be playing the violin – it takes a long time before we can properly appreciate this art. Each ceremony is unique. It is an artistic performance, the final form of which was greatly influenced by Zen Buddhism.

For the preparation of matcha using traditional tools

For your simple tea ceremony, you will need:

tea bowl Chawan
a bamboo tea whisk
a bamboo tea scoop
matcha
How to proceed with a simplified tea ceremony

Reserve a quiet place, ideally overlooking nature or flowers.

Usucha version

For a finer variant, Usucha, you need 70 ml of hot water. The water temperature should not exceed 70 ° C. Pour two teaspoons of matcha into the Chawan. Pour in a little water and beats tea whisk. Top up with the rest of the water and whisk again until foam appears on the surface.

Koicha version

If you fancy a thick and hearty Koica drink, use 3-4 teaspoons and 40 ml of water. Again, add water alternately and whisk. Koicha has no foam on the surface. Do not rush with the preparation and enjoy the nature around you while drinking. Enjoy matcha in peace, with respect for yourself, the tools, the tea itself and its history


What is a tea ceremony

The tea ceremony is a ritual whose goal is to interconnect all five senses, body and mind to such an extent that we achieve complete mental harmony. We can examine the imperfections of the tea bowl by touch, and other senses will be enchanted by the taste and smell of matcha. The ceremony evokes feelings of deep calm. It is at the same time an artistic experience but also a meditation, the roots of which lead deep into Japanese culture.

Different forms of tea ceremony

Each tea ceremony has a different course depending on what time of day and season, how many guests, on what occasion the tea is served and according to the type of food served. The ceremony was created to show respect for the Japanese nobility, and at the same time to admire various art objects.

Tea room as a place of peace and harmony

The tea room is made of purely natural materials. The room is quiet, making it easy to forget about the outside world. Today, the ceremony is a cultural heritage It is a profound spiritual experience that embodies tradition. His goal is to show respect to others and to strive for at least a moment of peace, harmony and joy. The ceremony takes place in silence and can last up to four hours. Each ceremony is unique, but also full of complex rules. Regular meetings of various groups of students or fans of the tea ceremony are no exception. In some schools or educational centres, tea courses are organized and the tea route is also taught as a field at Japanese universities.

History of the Japanese tea ceremony
12th century

The tea ceremony in Japan was introduced by the monk and traveller Eisai. At the end of the 12th century, he taught Buddhist monks in monasteries to drink matcha tea, which he poured into a tea bowl, poured hot water and whipped. The monks used tea for meditation and were to help them enlighten themselves mentally.

13th century

Since the 13th century, drinking matcha has become a luxurious affair and a symbol of the social status of samurai. Because tea was associated with nobility and court etiquette, its enjoyment during the ceremony was associated with deep mutual respect. The spiritual and aristocratic dimensions of the ceremony gradually began to merge, until the ceremony became one of the helpers, thanks to whom the monks, nobles and warriors could attain enlightenment. It represented a process of self-knowledge, thoughtful contemplation and spiritual refreshment. It took place in rooms with tatami mats and a minimum of furniture or decorations.

16th century

By the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all walks of life in Japan. Tea Master Sen no Rikyu consolidated the form of the tea ceremony and sanctified it with the philosophical idea that every human encounter is precious because it is unrepeatable and should be celebrated.

21st century

Today, the tea ceremony is an island of peace, harmony, purity, mutual kindness and romance combined with nostalgia. It is perceived as a moment of peace of mind in a loud and chaotic world. Unlike normal life, the ceremony has a fixed order, which evokes in us a feeling of reassuring certainty.

Tools

The ceremony does not use a single set or set, but a wide range of instruments that must lie in predetermined places on the tatami mat. They also vary according to the season or occasion.

Each instrument is handled with special care

It is thoroughly cleaned before and after each use, and some are handled only with gloves. Some tools have such respect that they are named in their name, just like people. Such tools include Chaikin, (茶巾) a linen cloth that wipes a Chawan tea bowl. Chawan is divided according to whether we serve stronger Koicha tea (濃茶)or a softer variant of Usucha(薄茶). In summer, shallow Chawans are used, in which the tea cools faster, and in winter, deeper. The most valuable are handmade and are valued precisely because of their imperfections.

The matcha intended for the tea ceremony is poured into Tea caddy (Chaire 棗・茶入, Natsume・Chaire)in a small closable container, from which it is then dispensed into Tea bowl (Cawan 茶碗) with bamboo of Tea scoop (Chashaku 茶杓). Tea whisk (茶筅, Chasen)is the implement used to mix the powdered tea with the hot water. Tea whisks are carved from a single piece of bamboo.

The course of the Japanese tea ceremony
Entrance to the tea room

However, some characters have in common. For example, before entering a tea room, guests must ritually clean themselves by washing their hands and rinsing their mouths with water in a stone sink. Everyone enters the entrance to the tea room through a small square door, which should lead guests to modesty and symbolism. According to legend, when entering the tea room, the door should have forced the emperor himself to bow his head and show humility to everyone else.

Welcoming guests

The floor of the tea room is covered with tatami, which with its layout tells guests where each of them will sit and what type of ceremony it is. In the room, guests look through tea-making tools, flowers and a scroll hanging on the wall, and then sit down on a tatami knee, depending on their importance. After the arrival of the last guest, the small door, Japanese nijiriguchi, closes loudly and the host knows that he can enter the room and welcome each guest. He will then answer polite questions about the scroll and tools to the first guest. The host ritually cleanses each instrument in exactly the prescribed manner and movements. He then places them in a precisely defined place in the order dictated by the type of tea ceremony.

Tea is preceded by food

Before serving the tea, the host serves either the whole meal or at least the traditional Japanese wagashi sweets, which are to prepare the guest’s taste buds for matcha.

Matcha – Koicha

If the host hits the matcha in the thick form of  Koicha he hands it to the first guest, who drinks it, praises the quality of the tea and passes the Chawan to other guests with a bowing. Each guest has the opportunity to admire the Chawan both eyes and touch. However, guests do not talk to each other. This ceremony is very formal. The host speaks only to the first guest and only in the form of a few prescribed sentences. When the Chawan returns to the host, the host cleans and washes the bowl, as well as the other instruments, goes to the door, where he bows to his guests, and gradually leaves the tea room. The tea ceremony is over.

Matcha – Usucha

During the preparation of the Usucha, each guest has his own Chawan, and after a formal exchange of courtesies, and untied conversation between all the participants in the ritual is possible. After the host cleans all the tools again, the guest of honour will ask if the guests can look at them. Tools have been around in Japanese families for generations and can have incalculable value. They are often handmade or antiques and are handled very carefully and with respect. Guests have the opportunity to take a closer look at the entire tea room, which includes a niche with a themed scroll with Buddhist text or tea sayings, a simple floral arrangement appropriate to the season and an incense stick. The choice of scroll, flowers and incense sticks is entirely up to the host.

Create your tea ceremony

If you ever have the opportunity to experience the tea ceremony, be sure not to miss this opportunity. The tea ceremony is a very special and unique form of meeting connected with a spiritual and aesthetic experience. It is infinitely complicated, but that is what gives it a touch of mystery and fleetingness. If we wanted to do the tea ceremony exactly according to Japanese etiquette, it would take us many years to fully master it. However, nothing prevents us from creating our tea ceremony. With the help of traditional tools, we can prepare Matcha ourselves and perceive it as meditation, part of the process of self-knowledge or exercise in mindfulness. In the same way, the tea ceremony can become an exceptional social event tailored to our family or friends.

This post contains affiliate links from which I’ll receive small commissions but the price is the same for you. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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