“Green Tea” Ceremony: Japan

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Also called the “Way of Tea“, where matcha, powdered green tea, is presented in a ritualistic fashion. In Japan, the ceremony is called chanoyu or chadō,  also pronounced sadō. The the art of the performance is called otemae . The primary influence for the ceremony is Zen Buddhism.

Tea gatherings fall into two classifications: ochakai  or chaji . Chakai is a used when simple hospitality is called upon, and consists of serving sweets such as cookies or pastries, thin tea or usucha, and sometimes a  light meal. Chaji is the more formal ceremony where a full-course meal, kaiseki, is served, followed by dessert, thick tea, koicha, and thin tea. An chaji lasts for at least four hours or more.

In China, tea was first drank for medicinal purposes. It was later to be used also for pleasure. In the 9th century, Chinese author Lu Yu wrote The Classic of Tea, that focused on the cultivation and preparation of tea. Lu Yu’s life was influenced by the Zen Buddhism school of ZenChán. Needless to say, his ideas had a strong influence in the development of the Japanese tea ceremony.

In the 9th century, tea was brought to Japan by the Buddhist monk Eichū, who had visited China and brought tea seeds back with him. In the Nihon Kōki, Eichū is listed as personally preparing and serving sencha, which is unground Japanese green tea, to Emperor Saga, while on excursion in Karasaki, which is present day, Shiga Prefecture. This occurred in the year 815 ad. The next year, Emperor Saga gave an imperial order that tea plantations be cultivated in the Kinki region of Japan.

It was near the 12th century when the style of tea preparation called “tencha” became popular. In this ceremony, matcha was placed in a bowl with hot water poured over it. The water and ground tea were then whipped together.

By the 13th century, the Kamakura Shogunate, the ruling class of samurai warriors, used tea as a kind of status symbol. Tea-tasting, tōcha, parties became popular where contestants could win extravagant prizes by guessing the best quality tea. This tea was grown in Kyoto from offspring of the seeds that Eisai brought from China.

During the Muromachi Period, that centered around the gorgeous cultural world of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the formation of what was to become the traditional Japanese culture of today came to be, where the Japanese tea ceremony evolves to aesthetic practice of”Wabi-sabi“. “Wabi” represents the inner, or spiritual, experiences. “Sabi” represents the outer, or material of life. By the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan.


Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia: Japanese tea ceremony


File:Chado1.jpgFile:Black Raku Tea Bowl.jpg16th Century black raku cup used for thick tea.


English: Two typical usuicha (thin tea) bowls ...
Image via Wikipedia

Modern tea cups


File:Tearoom layout.svgTypica; tea room

File:Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst Dahlem Berlin Mai 2006 017.jpgTea room with tatami rice rush mats.