Monday, October 3, 2016

Japanese Tea Ceremony - MI Tea Tour

The beautiful thing about the world of tea is that there's always something new to learn. When I attended the American Tea Society Conference in 2002 there was a segment on Japanese culture, but the emphasis was more on kimonos worn for the tea ceremony [Elizabeth Knight was dressed step-by-step in a kimono] rather than tea. Observing a traditional Japanese tea ceremony [Chanoyu] was a first for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The cost to tour the gardens and observe the tea ceremony [and be served Matcha tea and sweets afterwards] was $10 per person.  The ceremony lasted just over an hour.

At 2:00 o'clock we were welcomed into the tea house.  We passed through the gift area before entering the tea room.

After the the director's welcome and informational comments [yesterday's post], the tea ceremony was ready to begin.

Even though we were observing an informal and simple tea ceremony [chakai] it was not without form and ritual.  The host focused on precise predefined movements and actions, but mainly about preparing a bowl of tea from her heart.  

In the Japanese tea ceremony neither the equipment nor the setting decides its success  as much as the spirit in which the tea is made and served.  To become an accomplished and proficient host one first needs love, secondly dexterity, and thirdly perseverance to be able to do the tasks without a lot of thought. With practice and repetition the proper actions become second nature.

Below is the special preparation table the host was seated at during the ceremony.  The tea equipment [dogu] are:  [L] Cold water container [mizusashi], center - tea caddy [natsume], [R] ladle rest [futa-oki], ladle [hishaku], and a place for the kettle [kama] to set.  The tea scoop [chashaku], tea bowl [chawan], whisk [chasen], and kettle are brought to the table when the ceremony begins.

The ceremony consisted of three ladies - the host who made the tea [teishu] on the right, the host's assistant who served the tea [hantou] on the left, and the guest of honor [shokyaku] in the center. The ceremony begins and ends with a bow.

~  The assistant is seated near the host.  ~

The guest was seated at a table where sweets [kashi] had been placed before the host began preparing the tea. The sweets provide a balance between the bitter taste of the green tea, which is drunk after eating the sweets. 

The photo below shows Yoko, the host, with a purifying or cleaning cloth [fukusa] in her hand. Every item used in the ceremony - the tea caddy, bowl, scoop, whisk, and ladle were wiped with this cloth, and then it was precisely folded and tucked in her Obi [sash]. These cloths are made of linen or silk and come in different colors - typically red is used when serving women, and purple for men. The host neither drinks or eats with the guest.

~ Purifying/wiping the ladle. ~

In the photos below Yoko is ladling out hot water from the kettle to prepare the tea, and whisking the Matcha until frothy.

After the tea's preparation by the host, the assistant served it to the guest. 

~ The guest drank it with enjoyment and appreciation. ~

The host then began the process again of wiping each utensil with her cloth, and the three participants concluded the ceremony with a bow.  Just as we believe a formal Afternoon Tea should engage all the senses, the Japanese Tea Ceremony strives to accomplish the same objectives.

After the tea ceremony we were served the same sweets used in the ceremony and a bowl of Matcha tea.

Yoko walked around with her open tea caddy filled with Matcha for us to see.  Matcha is a specially grown and processed green tea that has been finely ground into powder.

Our two sweets were Yokan [left] a thick, jellied dessert made with red kidney bean paste, and Kuri Shigure [right] a cookie-like pastry made with chestnut powder.  Both were good.

Yoko told us we didn't have to feel obligated to drink our entire bowl of Matcha since it is an acquired taste.  I sipped some of mine, but didn't drink it all.  She praised our group saying she could tell we were genuinely interested in the ceremony and wanted to learn about it. We were glad cameras were permitted, because we were all shutterbugs.

[photo courtesy of Nancy R.]

Going to the Japanese Tea House was a wonderful experience I would recommend to anyone living in southeastern Michigan or visiting the area.  I was so glad it was on our itinerary.

Outside the tea house four of us who traveled to England together in 2007 on a London Tea Tour, paused for a photo.  Linda coordinated a Kentucky tea tour in 2014, and now it was my privilege to showcase some of Michigan's best places for tea.

[L-R:  Lori, Nancy, Me, and Linda J.]

Near the tea house, before exiting the cultural center was an Asian rickshaw adorned with fall flowers.

Next post - what we did after leaving the Japanese Cultural Center...


  1. This tea ceremony was a joy to learn about and the grounds were a vista of serenity.

  2. What a lovely group of ladies! Phyllis, you really do experience some wonderful tea times. This one is no exception and I'm sure it was enlightening from start to finish. Thank you for sharing it with us and have a delightful week.


  3. What a marvelous time you must have had, and I can just see you all clicking away and taking notes! I particularly love this sentence: "In the Japanese tea ceremony neither the equipment nor the setting decides its success as much as the spirit in which the tea is made and served." That wisdom carries over to pretty much all teatimes, doesn't it?

  4. This was so interesting! So glad you shared!

  5. How very interesting. I know you all had a great time!

  6. Wonderful tea ceremony. I must have been the only one who enjoyed the matcha. My bowl was empty.
    Sips and Smiles

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