In Japan, a lot of tea is traditionally drunk. Several centuries have passed since tea was first imported from China as a luxury commodity for monasteries and the farm. Today, Japanese teas are found in all sorts, shapes and price ranges. The range of variations here ranges from very cheap conbini-cha (teas made from plastic bottles in the convenience store for 100 yen) to high-quality gyokurocha from Uji or Matcha, which are used in the Japanese tea ceremony. To the setting of the tea ceremony and the stumbling blocks for inexperienced ceremony participants, this guest post from the Japan Blog Wanamour



The Way of Tea Matcha Tea Ceremony
Bamboo bans for Matcha – the Chashaku

The components of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony

The Japanese tea ceremony is a ritual gathering to enjoy tea together while at the same time training the focus on the here and now. The ceremony is therefore subject to strict rules. These prescribe who has to sit where, what should say who and what clothes etc. is allowed. This is exactly exercised by the host and the guests to the hair. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the art of tea ceremony is learned over many years and many repetitions. But the tea ceremony is not only about making and drinking tea, but the experience is supported by the surroundings.

The Way of Tea Matcha Tea Ceremony

Tea garden and waiting room

The tea garden is a special type of Japanese garden. It serves to help the guest mentally free himself from the worldly constraints and prepare for the upcoming ceremony. The garden is usually designed in such a way that it is not completely manageable or visible from any point. Since the tea ceremony and Zen Buddhism are closely related or have developed together in Japan, one finds sometimes typical Zen garden elements in a tea garden.

A particularly impressive example is the “river of stone”. In the garden an artificial creek bed (with your small wooden bridge) is created and then filled with light or dark pebbles and raked in waveform. The idea is that the “Bach” can only become a stream in the imagination and thus strengthens the imagination.

After the guest has admired the garden sufficiently and mentally got rid of the real world, he goes to the waiting room. The guest is then invited to the tea room, which he enters kneeling through the low sliding door. After the welcome, the guest takes a seat in the waiting room while the host prepares the ceremony. The waiting room usually consists of an open pavilion with a seating area. Where the guest, as the name suggests, waits until he is received by the host.

The Way of Tea Matcha Tea Ceremony
Traditionally furnished tea house

Teahouse and Tokonoma

The tea house is a small building built of wood or bamboo, surrounded by a tea garden. There is always a path to the tea house that never runs in straight line to look as “natural” as possible. In the tea house you come through a very low sliding door, which forces the visitor to get down on his knees. Through this situation, the guest is placed in a physical and psychological attitude in respectful and humble attitude and serves to prepare for the ceremony.

The tea room is usually a small room with a size of 4.5 tatamimatten (rice straw mats). These have a standardised size in Japan. In addition, the ceiling is usually very low, so that you already have problems to stand upright from a height of 1.70 meters. This is for the same reason as the height of the door.

The room contains no pieces of furniture, but traditionally a fireplace, the tools for tea making and the so-called Tokonoma. This is a specific niche in the tea room, where there is a single calligraphy, a scroll, a particularly valuable ceramic or a modest flower set. This single decoration in the tea room is intended to provide the basis for a conversation that is part of the tea ceremony.

Tea bowls

The Way of Tea Matcha Tea Ceremony Green Tea
EIie beautiful tea bowl with Friends of Tea Matcha!

The field of tea bowls is very large and diverse. But one of the most important concepts that has existed since the Japanese Middle Ages and finally found its way into the tea ceremony by Sen no Rikyu is called
. Before the time, Chinese tea bowls were more popular, which were as perfectly and artistically painted and fragile as possible. But with this new aesthetic current, the “peasant” looking coarser tea bowls became an elementary part of the traditional tea ceremony.

Due to the irregular forms, new customs also came into the ritual. So you turn the tea bowl 3 times clockwise (each by a quarter) to admire the bowl from all sides, both visually and haptically. With regularly shaped and painted tea bowls, this was not done, as it was not necessary. With irregular tea bowls in the Wabi-Sabi style, however, a new feeling could be set and the tea enjoyment could be enhanced, depending on the direction of view.

Attention: These are absolute no-gos!

The Way of Tea Matcha Tea Ceremony

As already mentioned, the Japanese tea ceremony is accompanied by strict rules. But that shouldn’t deter you, as a tourist in Japan, from attending a tea ceremony. However, the basic rules that you should definitely observe are as follows:

  • Put on white socks. In Japan, it is believed that the color “white” stands for purity and emptiness. Therefore, putting on white socks is a sign that you have mentally prepared for the ceremony and are ready to get involved. But even if you haven’t prepared mentally, you should still put on white socks, simply as a sign of courtesy and respect for customs.
  • During the tea ceremony you sit in the “Seiza” (on his knees). But since most tourists are not used to this and most Japanese know this, they sometimes offer you a little hump. There is no shame in accepting this, as it is so most pleasing to all. You don’t have to torment yourself so much and the host feels better at the thought that you don’t have to torment yourself.
  • Less is more. This also applies here to all external things, such as accessories, perfume, jewelry, make-up, irritating clothes and so on. The goal of the tea ceremony is to focus on the essentials. The above points are perceived as distracting and thus a disturbance of simplicity. Therefore, one should make one’s appearance correspondingly inconspicuous in order to support a smooth ceremony.
  • Turn off your smartphone. This should be self-evident, but in this day and age, when the smartphone is always within reach of most people, one should explicitly take care to turn off the device before entering the tea garden, or at least to set it to silently and somewhere out of range. The garden is supposed to be used to strip away the real world, so this is probably also a suitable place for this.
  • Drinking tea: When the host prepares his own tea for each guest, the contents of the bowl are expected to be drunk without putting it down. The pure matcha is quite bitter, so you should prepare for it mentally. To soften the bitter ness of the green tea, very sweet, traditional Japanese sweets are often served with the tea. But beware: if the host prepares only one tea bowl, one should only take a sip, clean his “lip print” with the tea towel. Then you place the tea bowl in front left in front of your own seat and pass it on to the next guest to his left. From there, the seat neighbor then picks them up.


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