Matcha Kari provided this detailed description of the Japanese matcha tea ceremony, chanoyu (the way of tea), its origins and essential utensils.
The matcha tea ceremony is one of Japan’s most reminiscent symbols and traditions, with a long history that predates modern society. Originally a favorite pastime for ancient Japanese warriors, it was later transformed as an emblem for modern Japanese culture.
If you’ve ever seen or read about a traditional Japanese matcha tea ceremony before, you may know that essential matcha tea utensils are generally present. Matcha tea utensils are beautiful pieces individually; however, they all have a unique purpose that makes the ritual authentic and complete.
Below are 9 essential matcha tea utensils that everyone who enjoys Japanese culture should have:
TEA CADDY (CHA-IRE/NATSUME)
The Japanese call the tea caddy natsume, and it’s used in traditional tea ceremonies to store the matcha that will be used. These caddies are handcrafted, decorative, and unique, with a protective lacquer finish. Natsumes are generally made from plastic, paper, wood, and bamboo.
The whisk is used for mixing the matcha powder, air, and water into a frothy beverage that releases essences and aromas in the foam to the surface. The whisk not only helps to dissolve the powder in the water but also allows for proper oxygenation.
TEA BOWL (CHAWAN)
Matcha tea bowls are typically made from handcrafted pottery, and they’re used for whisking and drinking Japanese green tea. However, they’re not recommended for hot and boiling liquids such as coffee or black tea.
TEA SCOOP (CHASHAKU)
The tea scoop, or chashaku, is generally made from bamboo. It’s a traditional Japanese utensil that’s used for measuring the matcha tea powder and transferring it from the tin to the tea bowl.
PORTABLE BRAZIER (FURO)
A portable brazier can be used as a smaller kettle and in situations when a fire isn’t available, especially in the spring and summer months. A portable brazier can also be constructed from various materials and placed on a shikigawara, which is a special iron tile that sits on the floor.
KETTLE LIT (FUTA)
The Japanese futa, or kettle lit, is typically constructed from iron and has handles of various shapes and sizes. It is used to keep the water warm before it’s removed from the kama.
IRON POT (KAMA/CHANOYUGAMA)
The kama is an iron pot made from cast iron; however, some are made from silver or gold. Its sole purpose is for boiling water only and not the tea itself. The kama lids are known as chanoyugama futa, and they’re usually forged from cast iron at the same time as the kama is to ensure a precise fit.
WASTEWATER BOWL (KENSUI)
A kensui is a wastewater bowl that’s made of various materials, such as clay, metal, or thin wood. It’s generally bent to form a small cylindrical shape.
The most common kensui is a bowl shape, and it’s used during each tea ceremony. The Japanese consider using any other type of wastewater bowl to be discourteous, especially when it’s reused in front of a guest.
DRAWSTRING POUCH (SHIFUKU)
A shifuku is a small drawstring pouch that’s traditionally made from silk, and it’s oftentimes brocaded or patterned. The drawstring pouches are used to store chaire or other tea implements.
The most widely used venue for a traditional matcha tea ceremony is in a purpose-built tearoom with a tatami floor; however, other venues are also acceptable forms. A suitable venue can consist of any place where the essential elements of making and serving tea can be performed by the host in the presence of the participants. For example, an outdoor tea gathering called nodate is a great venue for a tea ceremony.
STEPS OF THE JAPANESE TEA CEREMONY
During traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, the teahouse, including the garden outside, is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. The utensils have been carefully selected by the host, and meals are prepared in advance.
There are certain circumstances and elements that affect the order of each step. The season, time of day, and venue can all modify the step, but the same general steps are typically followed in most cases:
Step 1: The Preparation for the Tea Ceremony
The host will generally prepare weeks in advance for the ceremony. Formal invitations will also be sent out, and the host will prepare their mind, body, and soul for the ceremony. Additionally, the host will prepare the utensils and clean the tearoom, as well as the outside of the tearoom, which may have a garden.
Step 2: The Guest’s Preparation for the Ritual
Before entering the tearoom, guests should prepare themselves by leaving worldly things behind and purifying their souls. Guests should also wash their hands before entering the tearoom to remove the “dirt” from the outside world.
Once the host gives the signal to enter, the guest should bow to the host. This gesture shows respect and appreciation for the host’s efforts.
Step 3: Cleansing of the Tools
The host will bring in the tools to make the matcha and clean them in front of the guests before the actual making of the tea begins. The host will also exhibit the importance of the tools and of showing a graceful posture. It’s considered disrespectful to talk or make any movements during the cleansing of the tools.
Step 4: Preparing the Matcha
Once the tools are cleaned and displayed in front of the guests, the preparation of the matcha begins. The host will generally add three scoops of matcha in the tea bowl for each guest. Next, the hot water is added and whisked until it forms a thin paste, and more hot water is added afterward.
Step 5: Serving the Matcha
Once the matcha is made, the tea bowl is exchanged with the main guest (shokyaku), who generally admires and rotates the bowl before taking a sip. The main guest should wipe the rim of the bowl and present it to the next guest, who repeats the same procedures until the bowl is passed to the last guest. This person, in turn, gives it back to the host.
Step 6: Completion of the Ceremony
After all the guests have received a drink of matcha, the host will clean the utensils. As a sign of respect and admiration for the host, the guests will use a cloth and carefully examine the tools used to make sure they’re properly cleaned. Once this has been completed, the host will gather the utensils as the guests make a final bow and exit the tearoom.
It’s also important to note, the host may prepare either thin matcha (usucha) or a thicker brew (koicha) for a tea ceremony.
WHERE TO EXPERIENCE A JAPANESE TEA CEREMONY
Do you want to experience an authentic Japanese tea ceremony? You will need to plan and travel to Japan to places such as Kabukiza, Tokyo, Ginza, Hibiya, Asakusa, and others.
But what if you can’t travel to Japan? You can find a traditional tea ceremony by simply typing “Japanese tea ceremony near me” into your search bar. The results of the closest tea ceremonies will be displayed. You can contact the organization and make your inquiry by email or phone.
All images by Matcha Kari