Tea was introduced in Japan by Buddhist Priest Yeisei around 800 AD. It was through his influence that tea spread through monasteries and royalty. The tea ceremony includes four main principles- harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity.
Tea Ceremony – elements
Matcha or powdered green tea is served to the guests during a tea ceremony. In the Japanese tradition, there are three main disciplines for the tea ceremony and each has its own elements and rituals.
Tea ceremonies are formal and the host needs to wear the traditional kimono. The guests may choose to wear kimono or other formal clothes. Guests attending the ceremony should have proper knowledge of the rituals followed during the ceremony. Omotesenke and Urasenke are the most common ceremonies. Urasenke is mainly performed outside of Japan.
Locations for the tea ceremony
Location varies ceremonies might be held inside or outside. The inside ceremony may be held in a tea room inside the home or in a separate tea house which usually has a garden around it.
For a tea house ceremony, the guests need to wait in the garden until the host calls them inside. When they enter the house guests need to purify themselves by rinsing their mouths and washing their hands. Shoes aren’t allowed inside the tea house and guests are seated in order of importance.
The host builds a charcoal fire to heat the water for tea only after the guests have been seated. The ceremony might or not include a meal. In a no meal ceremony guests are served light sweets.
The guests come forward to take the bowl while the tea is prepared. The bowl is brought to the guest of honour. The guests are supposed to enjoy the tranquillity, the aroma of incense and have limited conversation while tea is prepared.
All the guests and host bow before the guest of honour rotates the bowl slightly and takes a sip. As a sign of respect, he then bows and raises his bowl and speaks a prescribed message. He then takes a few more sips from his bowl, cleans the rim, rotates the bowl to the original position before passing it to the next guest. This process is repeated until the bowl returns to the host.
The hosts clean the utensils used to prepare tea in a conventional way. The guest of honour asks the host to view the utensils. The items used in the tea ceremony are passed for each guest to view and praise as most of these items are antiques.
Finally, after the items are replaced the host bows at the door, guests leave and the ceremony is complete. A ceremony including a meal and a large number of guests can last up to four hours.