The Way of Tea"The Tea Ceremony"
Matcha is the tea that is used in the well-known Japanese tea ceremony which was established by Zen-master Sen-no-Rikyu in the 1570s. The tea ceremony follows four basic principles:
- Harmony (wa)
- Respect (kei)
- Purity (sei)
- Tranquility (jaku)
Within the tea ceremony, every step, every movement, and every moment is accurately defined. The ceremony takes place in a specially designed room exclusive for the ceremony. It is exactly four and a half mats of space (one Tatami mat is 170 x 85 cm or ten square feet). The room itself is kept simplistic to enable the guests to focus only on the essence of the ceremony and tea. In the winter season, a Kama (iron kettle) is placed in a small opening in the floor of the tea room which is heated by charcoals. In earlier times, these utensils were a true work of art.
The host seats facing toward the tea bowl (Chawan), tea container (Natsume), a Matcha whisk (Chasen) and a bamboo scoop (Shaku). The arrangement also varies in season. Even the wood for the charcoal is meaningful because wooden charcoal maintains the ideal temperature for Matcha as it provides its own aroma. It is said that even the age of the wood is part of the conversation piece in the ceremony.
The ceremony itself follows strictly defined principles. As the guests enter the room, the host will start to prepare the Matcha, in slow but stern motions. From the first welcome to the last sip of tea, and even the light conversation after, it all holds meaning in this sacred ceremony.
But the most fascinating part of the tea ceremony is indeed the philosophy behind it all. In Japan, the tea ceremony is called "Chado" or "Sado." If you translate it, this means: the way of tea. Even the dignified old tea masters still consider themselves as students. For they say that 60 years of experience in "The Way of Tea," only means you are one step ahead in the journey.