In keeping with our new Japanese tea pots and washi canisters I thought I would look into tea in Japan, however before I do that it made me think of the Australian Tea Ceremony!
What is the Australian tea ceremony you ask….it is taking a battered old billy can with a thin wire handle and lid, bringing it to the boil over an open fire, throwing a fistful of tea in for each person and one for the pot when it comes to the boil. Leave the billy can over the fire for a minute and then take you hat or some other insulating material and after taking the tin off the fire with a stick grab the handle with you hat and swing it around in a big circle about three times so that all the tea leaves will go to the bottom and you don’t have to strain them through your teeth as you try to drink them from your tin cup. Mmmm Japanese formality or fair dinkum Aussie billy tea. I think maybe the Australian tea palate is definitely becoming more refined and that maybe our tea ceremony would be more about a nice teapot or pyramid bag, our favourite tea and of course our beloved cup! Enjoy your morning cuppa and read a little bit about the Japanese tea ceremony.
Chanoyu, Sado or Ocha are the japanese names for the tea ceremony. It is a choreographed ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea, called Matcha, together with traditional Japanese sweets to balance with the bitter taste of the tea.
Drinking tea has been known in China since the 4th century however tea seeds were not introduced to Japan until the Tang Dynasty (China 618 – 907) when the cultural relationship between the two countries was at its peak. It wasn’t until the 8th century that there was any mention of a formal way to prepare and serve tea ‘the tea ceremony’ was first written about by a chinese buddhist priest who offered instructions on the correct temperature of the water and tea vessels in a book called ‘Cha Ching’ the influence of this book is responsible for today’s style of tea ceremony.
During the Nara period (Japan 710 – 794) the tea plants that were grown were mainly used by priests and noblemen for medicinal purposes. Tea being very rare and valuable in Japan during this period, coupled with the deteriorating relationship with China, led to the rules and formalities surrounding tea in Japan. Had the tea plant been native to Japan and readily available to everyone the tea ceremony probably would not have been established.
The japanese ceremony means pouring all your attention into the predefined movements. It is not about drinking tea, but is about aesthetics, preparing a bowl of tea from your heart. The host of the ceremony always considers the guests with every movement and gesture. Even the placement of the tea utensils is considered from the guests view point (angle), especially the main guests called the Shokyaku.
So next time you make yourself a cup of tea prepare it from your heart.