The Japanese Tea Ceremony Made Easy
A simple and practical way to enjoy and appreciate chanoyu: The Japanese tea ceremony.
For centuries green tea has become synonymous with the Japanese and the traditional tea ceremony (chanoyu) in particular. The emphasis to detail and an aim for perfection epitomises a culture enriched with beauty and splendour that is very much admired by Westerners. But it can take years to master the art and thus it is impractical to incorporate the ceremony into everyday life. However, one can experience its essence through a more basic procedure allowing the taste and benefits of the powdered tea known as matcha to still be enjoyed. Here’s how…
• Powdered green tea (Matcha)
• Tea container (natsume)
• Drinking bowl (chawan)
• Bamboo whisk (chasen)
• Bamboo tea scoop (chashaku)
• Pouring jug (Yuzamashi)
Find an area that is quiet and comfortable where you won’t be disturbed and set out the teaware in front of you. Boil some water; preferably filter or bottled spring water, and pour into a suitable vessel. Whilst the water is cooling down to the correct temperature of between 65 – 70 degrees, which takes around two minutes, begin to relax, calming the mind as you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Proceed when ready.
Take hold of the matcha container and scoop out one heap of powdered tea into the drinking bowl. Lightly tap the tea scoop once on the rim of the bowl so no tea is wasted then sit it back on the top of the tea container. Take this moment to focus once again on your breathing. When ready, continue on.
By this time the water temperature should be about right. Slowly pour the water over the tea filling the bowl no more than 1/5 full. Take hold of the whisk and moving only your wrist make a side-to-side motion in the bowl as though you were scribbling vigorously until the tea becomes frothy.
Replace the whisk and take hold of the bowl with your right hand and cup your left hand underneath it. Pinch the rim with your thumb and index finger of your right hand and turn the bowl 90 degrees clockwise. Place the hand back into the previous position at the side of the bowl. Lifting from the elbows, bring the bowl to your mouth and sip the tea. After three sips the bowl should be empty. On the third taste you may wish to make a slurping sound; this is done in the traditional tea ceremonies to signify the bowl is empty. Take this time to admire the craftsmanship and design of the bowl. Using the thumb and index finger of your right hand on the rim of the bowl turn it 90 degrees anti-clockwise. You can continue to make more tea until you feel you’ve had enough.
Drinking tea this way is all about being in the moment and cleansing the mind of any unwanted clutter; Focusing entirely on the beauty of the world whilst bringing balance back into ones life.
You may find the taste of matcha a little bitter at first and need something to sweeten your palette. So why not try one of the many varieties of wagashi (Japanese confectionary) to give balance to the flavour.
The tea bowl is the central piece of the tea ceremony, therefore, much consideration is needed when choosing one; the design should be personal to you. Prices vary depending on quality, bearing in mind you get what you pay for.
There are many good outlets selling all the essential items and high quality matcha. Minamoto Kitchoan in Piccadilly, London is a great place to try. The staff provide excellent help and advice on choosing the best equiptment and tea that’s right for you. It is also the location for regular tea tasting events organised by Japan Fooding Ltd. Taking part in the tea tasting is a good way to try this unique delicious tea for the first time. You’ll also have the oppotunity to talk to tea experts before you decide to invest in any of the teaware and utensils. Join their e-mailing list by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
Special thanks to Japan Fooding Ltd