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A friend has invited you to a Japanese tea ceremony. You've never attended one of these special teas before and you're very excited. However, you're also just a bit nervous. You don't want to come across as a rude or discourteous guest because you don't know what is expected of you. You need a few quick pointers on how to attend a Japanese tea ceremony.
One of the easiest ways to be sure you follow all the traditions properly is to ask for help. Simply explain that the whole experience is completely new to you and that you want to do things right. Your host and the other guests should be more than happy to give you a hand.
If you don't understand how to do anything, keep an eye on the other guests. If everyone picks up the cup with their right hands and then they support it with their left hands, odds are you should try picking up the cup this way, too. This also helps you avoid jumping in ahead of the guest of honor, or principle guest, who usually gets to do everything during the ceremony before the other guests, from entering the tea house to drinking the tea.
The Japanese culture has many lovely and fascinating traditions, but most tea lovers feel that the tea ceremony is the most interesting custom of Japan. If you admire the deceptively simple beauty of a tea ceremony, you may be surprised to learn that it is a relatively new practice for this ancient culture. While Japan has been enjoying tea since it was imported from China in the 1100's, tea ceremonies didn't actually become widely popular until the 1400's.
As you research Japanese tea ceremony history, you will find that the tea ceremony was practiced by Zen Buddhist monks, who eventually decided to share the experience of tea with the military. Tea ceremonies and Zen were so closely linked that a tea ceremony actually became a religious experience.
As the ceremonies become more and more popular, people began to build teahouses. To beautify the area around the teahouses, they created tea gardens. The ceremonies became more involved with each new addition, but retained a spirit of simplicity and humbleness.
Today, the tea ceremony is still very important to many people who study Zen Buddhism. In addition, people who just enjoy the beauty of simple things or have a passion for tea frequently hold tea ceremonies.
You've recently become a big fan of green tea. As you drink your third cup of the day, you decide you'd like to know more about the history of this healing beverage and traditions surrounding it. Do other cultures drink green tea because of its health benefits? Actually, while the Japanese culture originally drank tea for its medicinal qualities, it has now become much more than a health drink. For hundreds of years, Japanese tea ceremonies have become an important exercise for those who are seeking to reach enlightenment.
When someone hosts a tea ceremony, he or she tries to create a perfect experience for the ceremony guests. While someone who is not familiar with the Japanese culture may think it is simple and easy to create a perfect ceremony, the truth is that it may not actually be possible. Those who practice the art of tea for decades will be the first to say that they are still learning how to have a perfect ceremony.
Because the practise of serving tea to guests has taken on religious overtones, some people make the mistake of thinking that they cannot hold tea ceremonies without being Buddhist. However, since a tea ceremony also has to do with sharing your experience with other people and with the beauty of the ceremony, anyone can enjoy hosting a Japanese tea ceremony.
You've fallen in love with the Japanese culture, especially the simple beauty of a Japanese tea ceremony. After several months of making do by turning a corner of the living room into a teahouse, you've decided that this is going to be a life long pursuit. It is time to upgrade your tea ceremony area, so you are going to build a teahouse and design a Japanese tea garden to go with it.
As you consider how to create your tea garden, you should:
A traditional English tea set has a few simple pieces. A teapot, cups, saucers, spoons, a milk pitcher and a sugar bowl are usually the only things included. A Japanese tea set that is used in a tea ceremony has a few more pieces.
As you shop for your tea set, you should start with a kettle. The kettle is used to heat your tea water and is definitely necessary if you want to brew your tea. When you have a kettle, you'll need a few other essential pieces.
Your dream is finally about to be realized. You're going to have your own Japanese tea house. You're so excited that you can't wait to get started, but you want to make sure you get everything right. There's no sense in building a tea house if it isn't authentic. What do you need to do to create a tea house that is correctly designed and built?
Actually, to make an authentic tea house, you'll have to have terrific carpentry skills and the ability to create the graceful curves of the house roof. Finding accurate plans can be quite a challenge, too. However, if you are willing to persevere, you'll have a project you can be proud of.
If you decide that the real thing is too hard to create, why not just make your own version of a tea house? The most important thing to keep in mind is that a tea house is very simple and is made with natural materials. You should also think about details that are necessary for the ceremony, such as the low entrance door that requires guests to duck their heads to enter and the hearth so that you can heat the water in the kettle.
Brewing a pot of green tea is quite simple. You fill a pot with 175 degree Fahrenheit water, add a scoop of loose tea for each person and another for the pot, let it brew for two minutes and then strain the tea into a cup. For an even easier way to brew your tea, you simply drop a pouch of your favorite blend into the pot and lift it back out after two minutes. However, a Japanese green tea ceremony involves more than actually brewing a perfect pot of tea and then drinking it.
In a formal tea ceremony, the person holding the tea ceremony doesn't use loose tea or tea pouches. Instead, a special form of green tea called Matcha is used. You should only put the Matcha, or powdered tea, into a tea bowl using a special scoop, which is called a chashaku. For each guest at the ceremony, you should add three scoops of tea. Then, add enough water from your tea kettle to make a tea concentrate. This part of the process is similar to the Russian tea brewing method, as Russians customarily make tea concentrate as part of the tea brewing process, too. However, in a Japanese tea ceremony, more water is added directly to the concentrate to make a souplike tea.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|