Tea Ceremonies

A tea ceremony is the ritualized way of tea brewing. It often has a strict set of rules to govern how different kinds of teas are prepared, what equipment is used and what drinking manner the tea drinkers should follow. These rules are there to make sure the best taste of a tea can be achieved through the process.

The ritual can trace its roots back 2000 years in ancient China. Old Chinese tea poems and history texts have recorded the brewing of tea following certain rules laid out by the “saints” and how nice the taste of tea was when the ceremony was performed by an expert. There are also ancient Chinese paintings depicting the ceremony, however these were painted at a later time in the Tang Dynasty from around 1000 years ago.

The tea ceremony is the center of tea culture in many tea drinking nations, namely China, Japan, Korean, Britain and its many former colonies. The ritualized process is called Cha-Yi in China. All kinds of Chinese teas are used in the Chinese tea ceremony. It depends on the region and geographic locations, tea ceremonies can be different from one place to another, like the local dialects in China, they can be so different simply by driving 10 minutes down the road. One of the exceptions is Kung Fu Tea ceremony. It is a brewing method that is quite uniformed across many South Eastern provinces of China and Taiwan. Chinese tea ceremonies are quite flexible in terms of rules, however, depending on the teas, water quality and water temperature are often tightly controlled by the rituals.

Photo By: Bruno Cordioli

The Japanese tea ceremony is better known to the world. It is called Cha-no-Yu or Cha-Do in Japanese language, meaning “the Ways of Tea” or “the Tao of Tea”. Japanese Cha-no-Yu originated from medieval China and was brought back to Japan by Buddhist monks who went to study Zen Buddhism in China.

Japanese powdered green tea, Matcha, is the main tea used in Cha-no-Yu. Unlike the Chinese tea ceremony which emphasizes the tea and drinking process, Cha-no-Yu has a lot of focus on the preparation and anything surrounding the preparation, such as the tea ware and the set up of the tea drinking room. There are very strict rules and manners in Cha-no-Yu. The ceremony is usually performed by a woman wearing a  traditional Japanese Kimono dress. However modern Japanese Cha-no-Yu is trying to move away from that image, as the result, you can see women dressed in a tuxedo performing the tea ceremony. Before she is able to professionally act in the ritual, a tea artist has to attend specialized school for years of training and education.

The lesser known ritual is the Korean version of tea ceremony, called Pan-Ya-Ro. The Koreans feel that it is very important to remain natural while drinking tea together. Although Pan-Ya-Ro also has many steps that may seem complicated at first, but there is no rules of minute gestures like the Japanese or complicated water temperature requirement as the Chinese, and it does not take long to master them. Performing Pan-Ya-Ro is less ritualized and emphasizes more on the natural aspect of tea drinking. Green tea is often used in the Korean ceremony.

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