The Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Japanese Tea Ceremony

Enjoying Matcha

 

The pinnacle in presentation, the Japanese tea ceremony is impossible to pull off authentically without years of training. The traditional ceremony has deep roots and originated over 700 years ago. The founder of the ceremony as it is practiced today, Sen No Rikkyu, perfected the art of tea 500 years ago. The tea served at the ceremony is matcha, a powdered Japanese green tea that has a bitter, earthy flavor.

While you may not be able to replicate all parts of the tea ceremony at home, you can enjoy some aspects of the art of tea. Tea ceremonies reflect the seasons, with specific seasonal treats served along side the matcha. The sweet foods complement the flavor of the tea by providing a counterpoint to the bitterness.

 

Beautiful tea sets are also used. Earthenware sets in colors of the season are especially well suited. Generally, tea ceremony pots and cups are plain, since the ceremony is meant to further inward contemplation and loud colors and busy designs are at odds with the serenity and harmony of the mood.

 

Finally, the matcha is served. Matcha powder is suspended in hot water with the special bamboo tea whisk. The recipient lifts the tea bowl with both hands and drinks it all, with the last sip providing the strongest flavor as the matcha powder begins to settle.

 

To properly mix matcha at home, you need hot water, a tea bowl, matcha powder and a bamboo tea whisk. Place ½ teaspoon of matcha powder in the bowl, then pour in 1/3 cup hot water. Whisk the powder into the water, beginning slowly and picking up speed until its well mixed. In a true tea ceremony, there are prescribed movements for whisking and serving the tea, although you do not need to follow these to enjoy matcha.