The Joy of Chanoyu: Recreate Your Own Japanese Tea Ceremony
Japanese tea ceremonies are fascinating and beautiful, infused with simplicity and elegance. Tea was first introduced into Japan from China in the 16th Century, and while the Chinese have a traditional tea ceremony of their own, the Japanese are felt to have perfected it with Chanoyu. ‘Chanoyu’ has come to refer to the art of the tea ceremony, but the word actually just means ‘hot water for tea’.
The Japanese tea ceremony is far more experiential than merely steeping and drinking the beverage. It brings together the teachings and rituals of other Japanese art forms and encompasses the philosophical traditions of the country. Influenced by the practice of both Buddhist monks and samurai warriors, the ritual of Chanoyu was perfected by Sen Rikyu, considered the highest tea master. The ceremony puts the drinkers in a humble state of mindfulness as they contemplate life and the uniqueness of the moment. At its heart is the art of simplicity and balance in form, movement, and objects.
While many elements of this ceremony can only really be played out in an authentic Japanese teahouse (sukiya), and the necessary details take years to learn, the most important element in recreating the ceremony is the state of mind of the tea drinkers and the simplicity of the environment. There should be nothing garish or superfluous in the tea drinking space. Simple flowers, artwork, minimal décor, and delicate colours are the way to go. The ceremony is best enjoyed with friends but can be completed alone for a meditative way to clear one’s head.
What You Will Need
Matcha Tea: Matcha is a fine green powder usually made from Tencha or Sencha green tea. Unlike with other green tea, the leaves are not discarded meaning you imbibe all the goodness and antioxidants present.
Chawan: The tea bowl
Chasen: A bamboo whisk
Chashaku: A bamboo tea scoop
Furui: Matcha powder sifter
Hishaku: Bamboo ladle
Kama: large kettle with an available stove or heat source
While the Japanese use bamboo products, if none are available stainless steel or other materials will suffice.
The Matcha Tea is usually sifted in the furui in advance of the tea ceremony to ensure it is a very fine powder. A very fine tea strainer or sieve will do, although Matcha can be used for tea making straight from the tin, so this is not essential for non-perfectionists!
The Kama is placed over a heat source and allowed to simmer rather than boil. If you are using a modern electric kettle ensure it is turned off before boiling temperature. Firstly, the Chawan (tea bowl) will be warmed with the water before this water is discarded. Then the Matcha is measured out into the Chawan, using 2-3 scoops. Another ladle of water (around 4oz) is poured into the bowl from the Kama. Then use the Chasen to whisk the tea into a thick frothy consistency.
The tea is then passed around and drunk directly from the bowl.
The key to this ceremony is simplicity. It is just tea.. drunk in ritual. Notice your environment as you prepare and drink the tea. Notice the season, the temperature, how you feel at the start and end, notice the uniqueness of the moment, and feel free of the past and future for a short space of time. This is the joy of Chanoyu.
You can purchase Matcha Tea and teawares from our online shop [here].