There are Two Types of Green Tea Used – Usucha and Koicha
Two types of green tea matcha can be used in a tea ceremony. There are also two ways the matcha is prepared, depending on the formality of the gathering. There is a thin tea that is called “usucha”, and a thick tea that is called, “koicha”. (Click here to see the differences between Koicha and Usucha.)
During an usucha tea gathering, each guest is given an individual tea bowl. In a koicha tea gathering, each guest shares from a single tea bowl. The sharing of the koicha tea bowl represents a shared unity of hearts and minds between the guests.
A Chanoyu Tea Ceremony is a Choreography of Purpose & Respect
There is much symbolism and many required steps for a tea ceremony. The tea ceremony is about the sharing of each other and embodies great symbols of respect.
Preparation by the Host:
- The host will send simple invitations to the guests
- The host will prepare a meal (kaiseki) or sweets to be served with the tea
- The host will focus on being in harmony with his/her spirit, removing all negativity
- The host will clean the room
- The host will place flowers simply in the room (tokonoma)
- The host will place a special floor covering (tatami) on the floor
- The host will announce guests are welcome and ready to be received into the tea room
Preparation by the Guests:
- The guests will focus on harmony with his/her spirit and remove negativity from the heart
- The guests will patiently wait outside the room (shoin) until welcomed by the host
- The guests will ceremonially wash their hands to remove all dust and dirt from the world
- The guests will enter the room when welcomed by the host
- The guests will bow to the host as a sign of respect
Cleaning the Tea Ceremony Tools:
- The host cleans the tea ware and tools in front of the guests with a graceful posture so that it is beautiful to watch
- The host places the tea items in an artistic and beautiful fashion
- All participants are silent, focused on the harmony and beauty of the choreography
Preparing the Matcha Green Tea:
- The host prepares the tea by placing matcha into the bowl, adding to it a small amount of hot water
- The host whisks the matcha and water with a soft bristle whisk to make a paste
- The host adds more hot water to make the tea
- The host serves the tea, as described below
Serving the Matcha Green Tea:
- The host chooses the most beautiful side of the bowl, referred to as the “front”
- The host passes the tea bowl, with the front facing toward the guest
- The guest receives the tea bowl and admires its beauty
- The guest turns or rotates the tea bowl so that the front faces the host (the guest never takes a sip from the front of the tea bowl)
- If the tea bowl is to be shared, the guest wipes the rim and passes the bowl to the next guest in the same fashion, until all have partaken of the tea
Final Stage of a Chanoyu Tea Ceremony:
- The host cleans and rinses the tea ware and utensils
- The guests inspect the items as a symbol of respect to the host, examining the tea items with a soft cloth
- The guests return the tea items to the host
- The host puts the tea items back in place aesthetically
- The guests bow to the host and leave the room as a sign of respect to the host
Some Japanese Tea Ceremony Trivia Facts
- Chanoyu is literally translated “hot water for tea”.
- Only green tea matcha is used during a tea ceremony.
- The tradition of drinking matcha first began with temple monks to keep them awake during long evening meditation.
- Green tea was originally medicine. Japanese green tea experts still call it a tea “dose”.
- The traditional Japanese tea ceremony has existed for over 400 years.
- Originally, a tea ceremony was practiced only by men.
- Today, a tea ceremony is practiced mostly by women.
- The Chanoyu tea ceremony’s guiding principles were perfected during the Sengoku Period, an especially violent era in Japanese history.
- A tea ceremony can last upwards of four hours.
- Longer tea ceremonies involve a multi-course meal (kaiseki).
- Mystery surrounds why the 3rd Japanese regent, Toyotomi Hideyoshi compelled Sen no Rikyu to commit hara-kiri (seppuku) on April 21, 1591.
- 4 things should be taken to a tea ceremony:
- a kaishi (papers to place your sweets);
- a youji (small knife to cut your sweets);
- a kobukusa (cloth to hold your tea bowl); and
- a sensu (fan); a fan oftentimes scented with oils to permeate the air
A tea ceremony can happen at any time of the year. Whether it is a celebration of usucha or koicha depends on the seasonal period or time of day it is held. If the intent is to honor a specific occasion, then it can embody a combination of forms for the event. Regardless of the celebration, the Chanoyu’s principles guide the tea ceremony.
A tea ceremony encourages the participants to rise above the ordinary and uncover the hidden meaning within objects, art, spirit, fellowship, and nature. It embodies peace and harmony between participants. Don’t you wish our world leaders could aspire to sit down and share the principles of a tea ceremony?