The Way of Tea
Tea was introduced to Japan by the Buddhist monk Eichū (永忠) who, upon his return from China in the 9th century personally prepared and served this delight to Emperor Saga in the year 815. By the next year tea plantations were being cultivated in the Kinki region of Japan.
Zen Buddhism and, along with it, the Chinese methods of preparing powdered tea were brought to Japan in 1191 by the monk Eisai. Powdered tea was slowly forgotten in China, but in Japan it continued to be an important item at Zen monasteries. Over time it became highly appreciated by others in the upper echelons of society during the 14th through 16th centuries. The Japanese Tea Ceremony, also called The Way of Tea, is a ceremonial preparation and presentation of Matcha, powdered green tea. The ceremony is called chanoyu (茶の湯) or chadō (茶道); also pronounced sadō). The performance of its serving, is called otemae (お手前; お点前).
Buddhist and Shinto rituals form the basis of a traditional ceremony which can last for hours. Every movement involved has meaning in the ritual. Each circular movement of the whisk counted. It may require many utensils and other pots and implements especially chosen by a tea master. Frothed using a bamboo whisk, Matcha powdered green tea, is served unsweetened and pure. Handmade exquisitely detailed utensils are laid out in a specific order.
Ceremonial cloths are crucial aspects of the ceremony and are used at different stages. A linen cloth is used to wipe off the lip of the bowl after taking a drink.. A double-layer cloth of silk is used to hold and lift the hot tea kettle. The silk cloth is then later used to clean the tea container and scoop.
Tea gatherings may be an act of simple hospitality, chakai (茶会) or chaji (茶事), to include confections, a light meal and tea, or may be formal, chaji (茶事), which include a full course meal and ceremony lasting to 4 hours. Students of the ceremony are part of a “circle” or group that meets regularly to participate in this contemplative and ancient activity.
Some may wonder what the effect of the recent tsunami was on Japanese tea. Fortunately, plantations are located in the mountain regions and therefore growers and manufacturers were largely unharmed. However, the severe damage to power grids and routes of transport has caused great challenges in providing product to the marketplace.
Mark Klinger is the Owner of The Pawling Trading Company. bThe Pawling Trading Company carries Matcha Izu Gyokuro Powder Green Tea, but does not offer the ceremony at the store. To find a location in Dutchess County, or to join a circle, visit http://www.teaguide.net/index.html.
Japanese Ceremonial Tea Sets | eHow.com Meg Campbell
An Introduction to the Tea Ceremony , Written by Head Tea Master of Ogasawara Sencha Service School http://nobleharbor.com/tea/chado/intrototea.htm
Japanese tea ceremony From Wikipedia
Japanese Growers Safe But Fate of Coastal Retailers Unknown By Dan Bolton, World Tea News Editor3/11/11