Before going to Kyoto – Japan, I did not know a lot about the Japanese tea ceremony.
I heard it must be something very special. In the back of my mind I heard some prejudices; I thought it was quite touristic thing and probably we would get something – but not the real deal.
How little did I know… haha
Me and my friend are so fortunate !
Firstly, my friend explained that we would go to a very famous place and that it is very nice to attend. When arriving it was indeed very beautiful, small and serene place.
Meeting the host and before entering the tea ceremony room my friend and I discovered we were the only two guests. We were so amazed, because – as my friend explained – this place was quite famous .
Then entering the room, the room looked still, simple and at the same time there was so much space and it was so clean. Totally loved it.
The lady first explained about the history of the Tea Ceremony. She told us that the green tea was firstly used as a medicine, coming from China. This green tea is called Matcha. I like this word because you can pronounce a very hard t and ch and then breath out with a hard ‘a’ too (you like it too? haha).
After being used as a medicine and time passing by, the Matcha got used for the tea ceremony amongst the warriors, by decision of the ruler of the country. He decided that the ceremony became a way for the warriors to meet.
And when they meet, all became equal. No rang, all weapons came off their clothes and all signs were removed. When they were in this tea room, there was space to meet.
The nice thing ( I believe :)) is that the alcohol was replaced for tea.
Nowadays the tea ceremony is still used in political or business environment. The more secret the subject, the smaller the room they will meet.
After this explanation, the ritual started.
The woman showed a raven and put it in front of her. When all guests are seated, she removes it and started to explain that the border is gone by removing the raven and the ceremony starts.
In the ceremony every movement and gesture is considered from the guests perspective. Every placement of tool, every movement, every detail in the room. When we actually drank the tea, we were already driving in the process for 15 minutes. And the tea was just three sips which you can close with a sound. This way the host and other guests know that you finished.
So although it all comes down to pouring one a cup of tea, It is actually too much to explain the whole ceremony around it, but meeeeen it was worth to be there !
Because when it started, when SHE started to move and preparing and pour the tea – the beauty of the process elevated.
Every.single.move was simple and gracefully. Even her breath was to cry for.
The only thing I got, was that she must have been through a process to be so elegant in every single move she did.
After the ritual, the lady gave a bit of food for thought. She told us that to become a tea master like her, it normally cost about 6 to 10 years. They learn about the techniques but also about the spirit – to do every single movement as efficient and graceful as possible . Or rather – as she explains with the four elements of wa-kei-sei-jaku,. This means; “harmony”, “respect”, “purity”, and “tranquility”.
These four elements are four values that were left by tea master Sen Rikyu* (1522-1591).
*(more explanation on the shapes of tea master Sen Rikyu click here.)
And, ladies and gentlemen – I mean, Matcha-Matcha, YeS !
Then she laid eyes of the room. And started to explain. The room that looked so simple was full of rules and meaning. It felt like my sight became a bit softer and I could see more in the room too. One of the things she explained was that the room is dressed to the season. This way the guests can enjoy the (outside)season also inside. And as it was winter in our process, we had a kettle that was close to the guest to keep warm. The teacups, flowers, everything was dressed for this occasion too.
Actually, as she explains, the whole proces is about preparing a bowl of tea from one’s heart.
Left to say …
Matcha, Matcha. Till the next time !