the 6 tea varieties
The way of tea
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Cha No Yu, the japanese tea ceremony
The origin of the way of tea
"Boil water, whisk some tea and trink it with an honest heart. Nothing more !"
Sen no Rikyû
It is a very old tradition, introduced by buddhists monks, themselves inspired by an old chinese tradition from the Song Dynasty. The tea ceremony is a fairly widespread practice and definitely a very codified one.
It is a life long learning, something that we find as well in the Cha Do ("the way of tea"). The "Do" is a way, a path in a spiritual sense. One accomplishes a spiritual journey and the practice of tea is a spiritual accomplishment. This concept is found in many practices that have actually reached a status of art like Judo, Kendo, Kado.
Sen no Rikyû, himself a budhist monk, has codified the principles of Cha No Yu. He has defined four main principles. Harmony (Wa), Respect (Kei), Purity (Sei) et Serenity(Jaku). Harmony with our nature, respect and attention given to others are values to be followed. The inner and outer purity are as well important. If you follow these three principles, then you will be able to reach the fourth one, Jaku ( Peace, serenity). As already said, it is a life long learning experience.
The ritual of tea:
The ceremony takes place in a room with a sleak decoration, the ground is covered with tatamis. It can last up to four hours. The guests are gathered together and they silently walk through the garden. They wash their hands before entering the room and bow their head. This gesture is a sign of respect but it is as well a way to say that you leave your social status outside the room. The room, scarcely decorated, will not distract the attention: It makes it easier to stay focused on the ceremony. A roll hangs from the wall, some flowers and sweets are harmoniously presented. The inscription on the roll is a word or a phrase inviting to reflection. The guests take the time to observe and to comment on each of the elements in the room. They will then take their place, sitting on their knees, next to each other. The host comes into the room and starts to serve a light meal. He activates the fire with charcoal and offers something sweet to eat to his or her guests. Then, the guests are invited to leave the room. They will be invited to get back in to the sound of a gong.
They enter the room once again and usually, flowers have replaced the roll. The kettle is now on the fire. There is as well a jug of fresh water and the box containing the tea powder. Slowly, one by one, the host will bring into the room the utensils needed for preparing the tea, Matcha bowls, Chasen, Chashaku, a rinsing bowl and a bamboo dipper.
Using very precise and harmonious movements, the host is now going to prepare the tea. The silent environment allows to perceive the little noises made by the preparation of the tea. Hot water is poured into the bowl to warm it. The water is discarded. Using the Chashaku, the bamboo spoon, the Matcha tea powder is put into the bowl ( 2 to 4gr.). Hot water is then poured into the bowl. The host then whisks the water and the powder with the Chasen until he obtains a nice foam on the surface. The bowl of thick tea (Koicha) is now presented to the guests. The first guest will take the bowl with both hands and take three sips. He cleans the edge with a wet cloth and passes it on to his or her neighbour who will take as well three sips and so on. This part of the ceremony comes to an end when the host starts to wash the utensils.
The next part is less formal. A bit more charcoal is put into the fire and the conversation starts. Sweets snacks are offered and each guest receives now a bowl of thin tea ( Usucha). The guests will then bid farewell and the ceremony comes to an end. The host remains for a few more minutes in the room and takes the time to think about what just happened with gratitude.
The tea ceremony in a few words
Dr Sen Soshitsu, the fifteenth president of the Urasenke School describes it as follows:
"In my hands, I hold a bowl of tea. Its green color is like a reflection of the nature surrounding us. I close my eyes, deep inside me, I see the green mountains and the clear spring water where it comes from. I am sitting by myself or with beloved ones, I am at peace and I feel that all this has become a part of me".