Tea ceremony: A Japanese tradition

The Japanese tea ceremony, also known as chadō or sadō (“way of tea”) or cha-no-yu (“hot-water tea”), is a time-honored tradition that is steeped in history and ritual. It is a way for people to come together and share in the beauty of tea and the company of others.

The tea ceremony is an important part of Japanese culture and is a way for people to connect with one another. It is a time to slow down and appreciate the simple things in life. The ceremony can be seen as a form of meditation, as it allows people to focus on the present moment and find peace and calm.

The history of the tea ceremony

tea ceremony
Ukiyo-e print depicting the art of the tea ceremony by Mizuno Toshikata, c. 1895.
Image: © Photos.com/Thinkstock

Zen monks in Japan began drinking tea as a tactic to stay awake during long meditation sessions during the Kamakura period (1192–1333) and it was subsequently incorporated into Zen rituals celebrating the first patriarch, Bodhidharma (Japanese: Daruma).

In the 15th century, it developed into a gathering of friends in an isolated location to drink tea and debate the aesthetic value of calligraphy, paintings, and floral arrangements on display in the tokonoma. It was also popular among scholars to debate the advantages of tea instruments.

The elements of the Japanese tea ceremony

There are many different elements that make up the Japanese tea ceremony.

Japanese tearoom
Japanese tearoom in Uji – image: Wicki

The tea ceremony is usually held in a tiny building (cha-shitsu), which may be a separate structure from the main home but is often simply a specific room within the house. In order to give it an air of rustic yet elegant simplicity, exquisite care was taken in selecting and constructing the cha-shitsu’s materials.

The teahouse may be as small as 3 m (9 feet) square, with one end containing an alcove known as the tokonoma, in which a hanging scroll or flower arrangement is displayed. A tiny sunken hearth (ro) is used in the winter months to keep the tea kettle warm; instead, a portable brazier is utilized during the summer. The cha-shitsu is accessed via a little low door that implies humility.

tea ceremony

Other important elements are the teacup, which is typically made from porcelain or ceramic, the matcha, a type of green tea that is pulverized into a fine powder, the chasen, a bamboo whisk that is used to froth the matcha and finally, there is the hot water, which is used to prepare the tea.


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What happens during a typical tea ceremony?

tea ceremony

The tea ceremony begins with the host preparing the matcha. First, the powder is placed in the teacup and hot water is added. Next, the chasen is used to whisk the tea until it is frothy. Once the tea is ready, it is shared with the guests. The guests will then take a small sip of tea and savor the flavor before passing the cup to the next person.

The Japanese tea ceremony is a beautiful tradition that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. If you have the opportunity to participate in a tea ceremony, take the time to savor the moment and appreciate the simple beauty of this time-honored tradition.

More info: The Met

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