Japanese Tea Ceremony – The Way of Tea
The act of preparing, serving and drinking tea was elevated by the Japanese into a form of art in its own right. However, the tea ceremony is not just about enjoying the taste of the tea. There is a strong philosophical element to it as well. The most important aspect is the spirit in which the host welcomes the guest.
Japanese Tea Ceremony
Tea ceremony gatherings are held to mark and reflect changing seasons throughout the year.
Elaborate preparations take place from the layout of the tea garden to the tea room itself. The choice of the tea implements, the decorations, flower arrangements, and even the food or sweets that are served with the tea, often reflects a season. Each of these aspects, form, and etiquette are further refined over the centuries; becoming a mini art form itself.
Tea gatherings can be in a number of different forms, but a formal tea ceremony would last to 4 hours.
At a traditional tea ceremony, guests first pass through a formal tea garden to reach a tea house. Enjoying the view of the garden they put themselves in the right frame of mind to tea ceremony ahead. Then, the guests reach a stone bowl filled with water. They wash their hands and rinse their mouth as a symbolic ritual of purification before the ceremony. After the guests enter the waiting room through a narrow entrance. Everyone must kneel to enter, symbolizing that the tea house should be a place where relations between people are unaffected by differences in rank and status.
Sweet confections are served to the guest before the tea is prepared. Tasting the sweets before drinking the tea, serves to accentuate the mild bitterness of the tea itself.
A powdered green tea called matcha is used in the tea ceremony. The elegance in how the tea is prepared is one of the ways to demonstrate the host’s deep consideration for the guests.
The Way of Tea
It is the strong spiritual element which gives the tea ceremony its cultural significance over the time.
It is not only a ritual but is also a form of meditation and is based on the philosophy of Zen Buddhism. There is also an idealized concept of how the participants at a tea ceremony are supposed to deport themselves in harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility.
If you truly want to meet Japanese culture, there is no better way to start than a tea ceremony.
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