The tea ceremony is one of the rituals of Zen meditation. This is what the Japanese call Ichigo, which means “a moment, a meeting”. It is about creating a unique and weekly moment. Participants focus all their senses on the moment and experience it fully. It can therefore be considered a kind of meditation.
There are different steps during the tea ceremony. Participants should perform each step with full attention. This is what the tea ceremony is all about: concentrating only on the moment you are in, and noticing even the smallest details of the ritual. Forget all the stress and worries – forget all about what happened before and what will happen after.
The ritual is considered a gift of respect and devotion, given by the host to his guests. The person who is hosting the tea ceremony hopes to give the participants a little moment of complete peace and quiet. Therefore, all actions are done with the greatest empathy and focus on the details.
Everyone can host a tea ceremony. It makes no difference whether you are a man or a woman. The preparations for this ritual can take a long time and in Japan it may even take several years. In ancient times, the samurai were the only ones who performed the tea ceremony. That is why there is almost something sacred about the ceremony.
It is crucial that the person performing the tea ceremony knows the proper way to prepare the tea. One cannot just do it in an arbitrary old fashioned way. It may seem difficult to add the same caution and thoughtfulness to the ritual here in the West that they are capable of in Japan. In any case, the host must prepare a drink that is as perfect as possible. The result should be a pleasure for everyone. A product of remarkable sensitivity and care.
However, guests also need to know how to drink the tea. The ceremony has 15 steps and the guests need to know them all in order for it to be done properly. From the outside, it seems complicated, but it is not. In fact, the tea ceremony has become well known in the West and is practiced more than ever before.
The various steps in the tea ceremony
The tea ceremony has 15 steps. Participants must go through all 15 steps for the ritual to be considered authentic. The steps are:
- The host must take into account three basic principles: calm, harmony and clarity. The host should focus on giving these three things to his guest.
- All items used in the ceremony must be cleaned. Purity is a central concept in the ceremony.
- Have enough space for all the guests and have the space arranged to receive them. Focus on the well-being of guests.
- Appoint a guest of honor. This person will lay the foundation for all the other guests. The guest of honor should be the first to enter the room.
- The host welcomes the guest of honor and exchanges kind words with the other guests. She welcomes them with generosity and respect.
- The host should offer a light snack, such as a small piece of cake.
- All guests should wear formal clothing. In the west, guests wear white.
- The host should have all the necessary elements to be able to make the tea: water and tea leaves. All guests should be quiet and watch the tea being made.
- The host slowly pours the water into the teapot and allows everyone to be able to observe this. Listen and experience every second of this.
- Then the host puts the tea leaves in the water with the same attitude as in the previous steps.
- Once this is done, the host must serve the tea in each guest’s cup.
- The teacups are handed out to each guest. When a guest receives a cup, he or she should say a few words of gratitude or congratulate the host.
- Guests drink tea.
- The tea ceremony has two rounds of tea. After the first round, guests cover their cup with a plate. The basic ceremony is thus over.
The tea ceremony and meditation
In some tea ceremonies, everyone drinks first from the same cup and then from his own. The tea ceremony is especially effective if guests are used to meditating. What one has to get out of the tea ceremony is as simple as it is deep: every moment in life is unique and will never happen again.