Tea Ceremony

Japanese tea ceremony

The Japanese tea ceremony (Chado or Chanoyu) as it is known today started in the sixteenth century. It was an elite artistic practice that provided a forum for the rulers of Japan, the warrior elite and the wealthy merchants to reinforce social ties.

Beyond just serving and receiving tea, the ceremony is a choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Matcha together with traditional Japanese sweets to balance with the bitter taste of the tea. The ceremony is about aesthetics, preparing a bowl of tea from one's heart. One of its main purposes is to provide guests the hospitality of the host in an atmosphere distinct from the fast pace of everyday life.

The ceremony has four principles: Wa (harmony), Kei (respect), Sei (purity) and Jaku (tranquillity). People practicing the tea ceremony try to integrate these principles into their lives.

Today, the tea ceremony is a very popular practice in the Japanese culture. The degrees of formality and authenticity vary a lot. Traditional tea gardens, culture centres and even hotels offer the Japanese tea ceremony experience. Uji, Kyoto, is undoubtedly the most popular destinations to experience the Japanese tea culture.

Understanding the tea ceremony:

Names for the ceremony:

Chado (茶道): "tea way" or “the way of tea”

Chado is often used to refer to practicing and learning the way of tea from an experienced teacher.

Chanoyu (茶の湯): “hot water for tea”

Chanoyu is used to refer to the Japanese tea ceremony between people who are studying it.


Types of gatherings: 

Chaji (茶事): “Full length tea gathering including meal”

During a Chaji, the host serves Kaiseki (style of traditional Japanese cuisine in which a series of very small dishes are prepared) with sake, Koicha and Usucha to a selected group of guests. The whole gathering might take up to four hours.

Chakai (茶会): “tea meeting”

Chakai tea gathering is similar to Chaji, but instead of a selected group of guests, everyone is welcome to join; the host does not necessarily know all the guests personally. The ceremony is relatively simple compared to Chaji. Instead of Kaiseki, sweets, Usucha and sometimes a light meal are served.

Types of tea served:

Koicha ( 濃茶 ): “thick tea”

During a Chaji tea ceremony, Koicha is the first type of matcha offered. It is a thick blend of matcha powder and hot water.

Usucha ( 薄茶 ): “thin tea”

Usucha is the type of tea served in a Chakai tea ceremony and the second type of tea served in a Chaji ceremony.