Many paths lead up the mountain, but at the top we all look at the same bright moon – Ikkyu
Ikkyu (1394-1481) was a Japanese Zen Buddhist priest and poet. He was also one of the creators of the Japanese tea ceremony.
The Japanese tea ceremony, also called the Way of Tea, is a traditional ritual called Chadō (茶道) in Japanese. It involves the choreographic preparation of matcha (抹茶), powdered green tea to a few guests in the Chashitsu (茶室), tearoom that is a peaceful setting.
Here is a look into some interesting elements of the Japanese tea ceremony.
- Wabi Sabi (侘寂)
The Japanese philosophy Wabi Sabi (one of the nine principles of Japanese Art and Culture) is described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.
The pottery used during the tea ceremony changes over time. The enamel’s color changes and the edges get chipped. But rather than being looked at as imperfect, the history and uniqueness makes it perfect. Japanese tea ceremony masters have admired cracks on tea bowls for centuries.
This appreciation goes in line with the Wabi Sabi philosophy, which celebrates cracks and all the other marks that time, weather and loving use leave behind.
2. Wagashi (和菓子)
It is a traditional Japanese sweet made of bean paste, rice and fruits. The preparation of the sweet has evolved into an art form. These artful creations are traditionally served during the tea ceremony to complement the bitter matcha tea. They are very delicate and are tinted and sculpted into various shapes and styles.
There are different variants of the wagashi depending on seasons. The manner in which they are shaped is inspired by nature. When it is served at a tea ceremony, it enhances the sense that the season is for instance spring.
3. Chabana (茶花)
Cha literally means tea and bana is taken from the word hana or flower. It is the simple but elegant art of flower arrangement. It is an important component of the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
The tea flowers (‘Chabana’) are seasonal flowers arranged in a simple vase by the host. Chabana (tea flowers), are not arranged for decoration but are an expression of heart and mind and brings an element of nature into the formal setting of the Chashitsu (Tea room).
4. Chasen (茶筅)
It is the traditional Japanese tea whisk, which is used during the ceremony. It is made from bamboo, which is finely split hundreds of times and then individually curled to create the perfect tool for the ceremony.
The bamboo whisk whips the matcha green tea powder into a fine emerald- green foam liquid.
5. Mastering the Japanese tea ceremony
Japanese tea ceremonies can take years to master. The skill in mastering the ceremony lies not in the tea preparation but in understanding the true meaning of the ceremony as well as the correct usage of the tea tools. The host of the ceremony always considers the guests with every movement and gesture.
The heart of the ceremony is about aesthetics, predefined movements and appreciation of the four basic elements of the tea ceremony: harmony, respect, purity, & tranquility.
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