Tea was introduced to Japan during the 9th century when a Buddhist monk, Eichu, returned from China with a tea plant. Tea was used by Chinese monks for spiritual, and medicinal purposes. Eichu served the tea to the Emperor, which then began the cultivation of tea across Japan. Initially tea was had at Buddhist rituals up until the 13th century, when it became a symbol of status and luxury amongst samurai and those with wealth.
Japanese tea ceremonies, also known as the Way of Tea, chado, or chanoyu, are often formal gatherings, however there’s a level of flexibility due to the variety of ways this ceremony is performed, depending on the occasion, season, and guests. The purpose of the ceremony isn’t simply to drink the tea, but rather about connecting with the host and guests on a spiritual level; it’s a time where you can remove yourself from the fast-paced routines of daily life and enjoy a moment of peace and generosity. The host uses beautiful Japanese utensils and bowls for the guests as a sign of respect.
There are 4 principles of the tea ceremony that were proposed by tea master Sen Rikyū (1522-1591) Those who practice the art of tea strive to incorporate these principles into their daily lives:
Wa – Harmony: The positive interactions between the host and the guests, or amongst any situation in everyday life.
Kei – Respect: The ability to be understanding and accepting of others, regardless of background; everyone is equal in the tea room, and outside.
Sei – Purity: The ability to treat yourself and others with an open heart.
Jaku – Tranquility: This is the ability to be able to put the ideals of harmony, respect, and purity into practice, in doing so a level of selflessness is reached.
Tea ceremonies are an amazing thing to experience, it’s so relieving to be able to sit and enjoy matcha tea in peace. Even if tea isn’t your favourite, I believe it’s important to take away the lessons expressed through the principles. If you can find peace and acceptance within yourself then you can pass that positive energy to those around you.