Matcha ceremony (Chanoyu) is very complicated. Students of Chanoyu go to University to learn and study every aspect of it! Books that are written about it cannot hold all of its complexities within. Nonetheless, in this Spotlight, we will endeavor to shed a faint light on one of the most beautiful and complicated ceremonies in the world: Chanoyu.
What is Matcha?
“Matcha is a first class type of powdered, extra-fine ground tea that is used for the Japanese tea ceremony, Chanoyu, during which the tea is whisked with a bamboo tool called a chasen, in a handcrafted bowl called a chawan. Quality Matcha is always a pea-green, extra-fine powder with a distinctive, grassy aroma. The foamy infusion is fresh and deep green with an unforgettable, intense taste. Its health benefits are endless! We recommend that it be enjoyed after dessert or with a Japanese sweet, but never drink it on an empty stomach!” Taken from Dobra Tea
Matcha is made from the leaves of the Gyokuro tea plant. Gyokuro that is shade grown for more than 20 days is harvest by hand. The leaves are preprocessed into tencha by steaming and drying. When ground in a milstone (think giant granite stones), the tencha becomes matcha.
Two styles of matcha are served during the tea ceremony. The first, thin-style matcha, called usucha (oo-Soo-cha) is served to each person. The second, thick-style matcha, called koicha (Koy-cha) is shared among the guests.
What is Tea Ceremony?
Japanese tea ceremony is about four elements: wa, kei, sei, and jaku or harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. When one includes all elements, one can enjoy the simplicity of drinking tea. Harmony can be created through cleanliness; the ceremony is held in a room without clutter and with elegant decorations, like flowers in a vase or a flag of calligraphy. Respect is created by thoughtful consideration of everything and everyone involved in the ceremony. Topics that can lead to arguments are not discussed during tea ceremony. Purity comes from the cleaning of the utensils and the boiling of the water. Tranquility is achieved after the calm consumption of the tea.
The Five Parts of Chanoyu, Simplified
- The Yoritsuki (receiving room): The receiving room is prepared to comfort the arriving guests. In the room, guests may prepare themselves for the tea ceremony by changing their cloths (kimonos are popular choices) or using the bathroom. Usually a pot of hot water is available to the guests to refresh and cleanse their palate. Sometimes the hot water is made with toasted rice. Relaxation is important before the tea ceremony.
- The Roji (passageway): In traditional tea ceremony, after preparing in the yoritsuki, the guests move outside to the garden. The garden is specially prepared as a passageway to the tearoom. Stepping stones surrounded by moss are common. The ground is lightly sprayed to mimic the clean look of a gentle rain. The passageway is meant to create tranquility by experiencing the beauty of nature and refreshing the mind.
- The Tskukubai (symbolic cleaning): Within the roji is a special place for guests to cleanse their hands and mouths called the tskukubai. It is made of carefully placed plants, stones, and pebbles. a stone basin filled with constantly flowing water allows the guests to physically clean before the ceremony, refreshing the body.
- The Machiai (waiting room): The machiai is a waiting area comprised of a wall with a small roof and bench beneath. It is an area for guests to wait for the rest of the group and quietly enjoy the tranquility of the garden. The host appears after everyone has gathered in the machiai. The guests greet the host with a simultaneous bow. With a gong, the host invites the guests into the tearoom.
- The Chashitsu (tearoom): After the drum of the gong fades, the guests walk to the unique entrance of the tearoom. The entrance, called nijiri guchi, is small, only about three feet high and two and a half feet wide. All guests must humbly stoop to enter the tearoom. Upon entering, guests slide toward the alcove, which displays artistic calligraphy, typically the work of a well known Zen priest, and bow to show respect. Flower arrangements and incense holders are also present. After examining the artwork, guest move toward the host to inspect the teakettle and utensils. After inspection they take their places for the tea ceremony.
The tearoom gives the sense of elegance and peace. Soft light shines through the shoji screens, highlighting the objects on display, and incense perfumes the air. The soft sound of boiling water is heard. Beginning the gathering, the host opens a sliding door that connects the kitchen to the tearoom and enters the tearoom. Everyone, including the host, quietly bows with respect. The host welcomes everyone and explains the special reason for the ceremony, if there is one. The guest of honor, or main guest, thanks the host on behalf of the other guests.
Description of Ceremony
A door made of rectangular rice paper windows opens. Two outstretched hands reach through the doorway and place a utensil on the floor. The hands, now pressed on the floor, allow their master to shuffle into the room. The master is a Japanese woman, dressed in beautiful green robes (kimono) with a large belt and a bow tied in the back. She picks up the utensil, places it ahead of her again, and shuffles toward it a second time. Finally within the room, she stands, walks slowly toward the flag of poetry enshrined on the wall, kneels and bows to it. She then approaches the kama, the water vessel in the room, inspects it and the ornate vase misisashi next to it. Since everything is correct, she walks to the corner of the room, by the door to kneel and rest. She is guest.
This description is from a tea ceremony watched by the author
Tea Bowls – Chawan
Tea Scoops – Chashaku
Tea Whisks – Chasen
Tea Containers – Natsume
Water Scoop – Hishaku
Cloth Napkin – Chakin
Silk Napkin – Fukusa
Tea Kettles – Kama
UPDATES TO FOLLOW!
Written by Nathaniel Pantalone for OWB LLC.