The Japanese Green Tea Ceremony (Cha-no-yu or The Way of Tea) developed as a Zen Buddhist ritual after the Japanese learnt from the Chinese in the C12thAD to drink powdered green tea in their Buddhist monasteries and temples. The idea of the ceremony is to turn one’s back on the material world and find a spiritual harmony with the wider universe.
The ceremony takes place traditionally in a small tea house and before entering and kneeling on the silky tatami matting that covers the floor, guests cross a little garden, wash their hands and mouth in a symbolic gesture of physical cleansing, remove their shoes and then crawl elegantly through a low door into the tea house. Every movement, each piece of equipment, the choice of the wall hanging and the simple flower arrangement are decided according to a strict set of rules which tea masters spend years perfecting. At the beginning of the ceremony, a bowl of ‘thick’ tea is shared by all the guests. This ‘koicha’ is made by whipping a generous quantity of finely ground, emerald-green tea called ‘matcha’ into hot water with a bamboo whisk.
Later, each guest is served his or her own bowl of ‘thin’ tea called ‘usucha’ which is made with a smaller measure of the matcha tea. The ceremony can last up to four hours and at the end, guests feel very calm and spiritually uplifted.