Continued from A Glimpse Into the Tea Ceremony: Chakai Versus Chaji – Part 1

After watching your graceful host perform one of the most impressive rituals done with precision accuracy, you will be offered tea in a breathtaking bowl called a chawan, from which you will drink. When the bowl is set in front of you on the tatami mat, bow to your host with flat palms again. Then in deliberate fashion–however awkward it seems–take the bowl and put it on your left palm, holding with your right, and gently raise it just a little in a gesture of gratitude to your host. Now cup the bowl with both hands, fingers together.

The most beautiful side of the bowl always faces you – your host discreetly ensures this formality. So to echo this respect to your host, you must ceremoniously turn the chawan clockwise in three steps (180 degrees) so the most beautiful side now faces your host. Imagine doing a U-turn in your car with your hands at 9:00 and 3:00…and doing so without taking your hands off the wheel! Remember too that some of these bowls can cost as much as a Rembrandt! Both hands at all times please!

Your palate has been prepped with the wagashi and now it’s time to sip the matcha. Drink the three sips (or more) without putting the bowl down. Enjoy it but also drink it fairly quickly so others don’t wait for you. On the final sip, slurp it gently to give your host a heads up that you are done and thoroughly enjoyed it (even if you didn’t!).

After finishing the matcha, make sure to admire the bowl, still cupped in both hands and held close to the tatami mat: View all sides, even glance at the bottom, but remember which side is the “nice side”. Before placing the bowl on the mat, you must wipe the edge where you drank with a single swipe of your fingers to clean the rim of the chawan: Thumb on the outside of the bowl, index finger on the inside.  Discreetly clean your fingers by touching the wagashi paper. Now turn the bowl counter-clockwise twice so the “nice side” faces you and then place it on the tatami mat in front of you. The host or assistant will take it.

At all times focus on keeping your hands relaxed and beautiful with fingers together. When not engaged in the act of drinking, rest your hands on your thighs. You will be sitting on the floor, on your legs, and this will be torture by the end! They might take pity on you and provide a “chair” the size of two stacked bricks.

If you go to Japan, I encourage you to experience a tea ceremony by checking with your hotel or local tourist office. I also know many places in the Kyoto, Nara and Kobe areas so please email me ([email protected]) if you are interested.

Stay tuned next month for the expanded version of the tea ceremony. You won’t want to miss it!

Photo “matcha tea” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License to the photographer “Penn State” and is being posted unaltered (source)

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