Tea is a drink that is enjoyed across many cultures. It could even be argued that tea brings people together worldwide. From the Indian Darjeeling to the Japanese matcha, tea is an important part of history and culture enjoyed by millions. The Japanese, in particular, have a special attachment to tea and enjoy a complex ceremony that has been passed down for centuries. In other countries, we view this tea ceremony with natural curiosity and see the intricate details as mere passings of time in our busy lives. However, there is much history at the root of everything that takes place in this ceremony that many of us know little about.
History of Tea Ceremonies
Preparing tea in Japan is not just about the destination of finally drinking that cup of matcha but rather enjoying and finding meaning in the journey that leads to it. The Japanese tea ceremony is often known as “chado” or “sado.” It is meant for the guests to slow down from their daily lives and come in to a sort of meditative state that allows for them to take a break and focus on something pure and traditional. Tea was not always so revered though. When introduced in the 8th century, it was purely a medicinal drink. It was not until the Muromachi period that it was enjoyed by people of all social classes during which the traditional tea ceremony started to take root. People began to associate tea with spirituality and give it meaning beyond just a pleasant beverage. This evolved into forming tea schools which in turn developed the traditions that we see today.
Traditionally, the tea ceremonies consist of a multi-course meal and two types of tea, a thick tea and a thin tea. The tea ceremonies are so elaborate that everything down to the motions of the hands has meaning and must be done exactly according to tradition, varying slightly with different schools. The setting is generally surrounded by a garden while the guests sit on tatami mats in the tea room. Before the meal, the guests bow low as a symbol of humility for the meal to come. As they sit and regard the tea ceremony with respect, the walls around them will be adorned with scrolls and flowers to add to the beauty and serenity of the ceremony.
Tea Ceremonies in Anime
It is unusual to observe a full tea ceremony in anime, however there are some that exhibit certain parts of it. For example, in Ouran High School Host Club, we see Honey try to make a bowl of matcha green tea in a cherry blossom garden. He uses the traditional bowl and whisk that would be used in a tea ceremony but does not follow any of the other rules that come along with it. Similarly, in Hakouki, we see an example of a tea ceremony, but it is not a traditional full-fledged one.
Thank you for reading about the history of tea ceremonies in Japan. We hope that it has been enlightening for you. There are many that you can participate in, especially in Japan if you want the whole experience. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.