The Japanese tea ceremony, also known as the Sado, is one of the most ancient and elegant traditions that comes from the Land of the Rising Sun. Some people who are interested in tea culture travel all the way to Japan to take classes from a master; and once they are trained in the aesthetics, ways of conduct, and philosophy of Sado, they continue to practice by hosting tea ceremonies for their family and friends back home. An authentic Japanese tea ceremony takes as long as four hours, as it includes a kaiseki meal and two servings of tea, and it can take several years before one becomes a skilled teishu or host. However, you don’t have to undergo rigorous training to replicate the experience at home. By taking to heart the significance of the ceremony, you can serve your loved ones a cup of this healing and relaxing brew as a way to add more tranquility and harmony into your life and relationships. Here’s a guide to hosting a modern Japanese tea ceremony.

What to Wear

Since a tea ceremony is considered to be a formal occasion in Japan, the host and their guests are expected to act and dress accordingly for it. Traditionally, everyone wears a plain or undecorated kimono, and everyone takes off their footwear before going into the room. It is also advisable not to wear anything too flashy or revealing, as you’ll be sitting for a long time. 

Photo of tea being poured into three differently-colored ceramic tea cups

For a modern Japanese tea ceremony, you can adapt your wardrobe and wear something simple, such as a plain cotton or linen shirt in a neutral color: Both of these fabrics are breathable, which is a good choice for a prolonged period of sitting. Pair it with drawstring trousers made of soft and non-clingy fabric for comfort. Have your guests wear something similar and remind them to take off their shoes and leave them by the door so that your tea ceremony space will stay clean and hygienic throughout your time together. Also, those with long hair should tie their hair up, and no jewelry should be worn during the ceremony. The operative word here is simplicity, so the simpler and more minimalistic the outfit, the better.

Prepare the Space

Japanese tea rooms are usually decorated in a minimalist way. Typically, you’ll find a low rectangular wooden table in the middle of the room, a few cushions to sit on, tatami mats on the floor, wall scrolls, and perhaps a lone vase with a single flowering orchid stem within the space. You can replicate the aesthetics of a traditional tea room by clearing out all the clutter and furniture from your space and placing a rug and a low table right in the middle of it. Decorate with one or two potted plants or a bonsai plant, and then add some floor cushions to make the space a little more comfortable for you and your guests. Add some candles or a lantern to heighten the soothing vibe of your tea room, then place a small bubbling water fountain in the corner of the room to drown out loud noises coming from the outside.

What to Serve

Matcha or green tea is the traditional choice when hosting a Japanese tea ceremony; but for a modern-day ceremony, you can have other types of loose leaf tea such as white tea or oolong tea. Have some sliced lemons on hand, plus a small pot of honey so that your guests can adjust the flavor of their tea according to their taste. Ideally, you should use a Japanese tea pot and bowls for the ceremony – but if you don’t have those, a regular tea set will do. If you’re having a tea ceremony without the kaiseki meal, then it should last for about two hours maximum; so be prepared by having some sweets, mini sandwiches, and delicately flavored pastries to go with the tea as your guests are bound to feel peckish during your modern tea ceremony.

A Japanese tea ceremony represents respect, harmony, and tranquility, and it reminds us of the importance of serving and giving to others without expecting anything in return. As long as you keep this in mind, you can have an authentic, mindful, and enjoyable tea experience with your loved ones, even if you stray a little from ancient tradition.

Photo “Tea Ceremony” is under an irrevocable, nonexclusive, worldwide copyright license to the photographer Sergey Norkov and is being posted unaltered (source)