Monday, May 9, 2011

Chew, Bow, Sip. Watching a Japanese Tea Ceremony (Sado)

I have always wanted to be a part of a Japanese tea ceremony (sado), but I wasn't able to find a place to do so until the Kulov Tea Festival last year. They had a tea ceremony workshop held by Mrs. Soshitsu Nishimura of the Edo Senke school. They have different school/styles of tea ceremony, and unfortunately I have no idea what the differences are. The workshop was held at Royal/T and they had quite a few attendees so we did not sit on tatami mats and participated fully. We sat in chairs and watched and partook in wagashi and the matcha that Nishimura sensei's student prepared.

The tea ceremony is all about purity and hospitality, so the first thing the host does after kneeling (or sitting) down is clean all the utensils and bowls that will be used (after the fire for the water is lit, of course). Afterward, she transfers some water to get it cooled down to the proper temperature.


Before tea, the guests are served a wagashi (traditional Japanese snack).
For this, we each got a kashiwa-mochi, a rice cake filled with red bean wrapped in oak leaf (no you do not eat the leaf). Apparently this particular mochi is associated with Children's Day in Japan which falls on May 5.
I'm not sure who made these, but I'd love to get my hands on some of these somehow.

Once the water is ready, she gets the tea powder from the tea caddy (natsume) and whisk it in water with the chasen.
She then serves you the tea, and you both exchange bows.
When you receive your tea bowl (chawan), its "front" will be facing you. That's supposed to be "the most beautiful part of the bowl". I guess for the modern bowls, it's the side with the most decoration?
After admiring the front, you must turn the front to face the tea server while you drink your tea. When you serve the tea (or in the case of this workshop, hand it to the next guest) you have to serve it with the front facing them as well.

When all is done, the host cleans all the utensils again before leaving the room.

The tea was so good, I ended up buying a container of matcha home. I still have to practice whisking it properly though! I wanted to take tea ceremony classes, but they told me I needed a kimono to wear...



You're required to wear a kimono to take a class? That's quite an investment. It's the rigidity of tradition that makes the ceremony so alluring but also keeps the rest of the world out.


indeed. i think i'd have fun wearing a kimono but it's so expensive..

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