Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting up with a very learned Japanese Lady, who practises the art of the Japanese Tea Ceremony. She enlightened me as to the historical facts of the drinking of green tea, which dates back to China and the 4th century.
Tea was officially a gift from the Chinese tang court presented to Emperor Shomu of Japan and in the year 794 a tea plant was planted in the imperial Gardens in Kyoto.
Later, the Japanese buddist Monks went to China to study about tea and in 1192, Eisai, returned with tea seeds and started to officially plant tea in Japan. This monk ,Eisai also wrote the first Japanese tea book which later influenced the development of the Tea Ceremony.
There are many, many rules of etiquette for what is called ' chanoyu, or hot water tea" and in Japan you may experience this rather lengthy ritualistic ceremony in the harmonic beauty of a Japanese Tea House.
There are four principle to the ceremony: harmony, respect, purity and tranquility ( wa, kae, sae, jubuo)
The procedures are simple: clean the serving bowls, boil a pot of water, serve sweet treats to quests before the tea, mix powdered bitter green tea( Matcha) and water to make a frothy tea, serve the tea to quests. ( The flavors of the sweets and bitter compliment each other.
The sign of harmony is :
1. Bow when you receive the cup of tea which is called " chawan'
2. Take the " chawan" with your right hand and place it in the palm of your left hand.
3. Turn the " chawan ' clockwise three times before you take a drink.
4. When the tea is gone, make a loud slurp to tell the host that the tea was truely enjoyed.
5. Wipe the part of the " chawan' your lips touched with your right hand.
6. Turn the "chawan" counterclockwise and return it to the host.
Many people ask how long it takes to learn this art of the tea ceremony. I might say how long does it take you to learn the piano ? While simple tunes can be learned in a few weeks .... A true artist will study the piano for at least 10 years . In Japan one must study the art of the Tea Ceremony for 10 years in order to practise this ancient custom.
If you want to bring alittle of the ceremonial charm home with you, a " chawan' may be purchased in specialty tea stores along with tea ceremony utensils. The above tea cup or " chawans ' range from 100-200.00 dollars per bowl... depending on the ceramic artisan who created it.