The tea ceremony is part of the Zen meditation rituals. The Japanese call it Ichigo , which means ‘a moment, a meeting’. It’s all about creating a unique, unrepeatable moment. Participants sharpen all their senses at that moment so that they can experience it with complete surrender. So it is — in fact — a form of meditation.
A tea ceremony consists of specific phases. It is intended that participants go through these phases with full awareness. That’s what the tea ceremony is all about: focusing exclusively on the present moment and noticing even the tiniest details of the ritual. Forget your haste and worries for a while and don’t think about the before and after.
This ritual is a gift of respect and affection from the hostess (or host) to her (or his) guests. Whoever organizes and conducts the tea ceremony hopes to give the guests a small moment of ultimate tranquility. That is why she carries out everything with a great sense of dedication and attention to detail.
Anyone can organize a tea ceremony. Both men and women are free to do this. Preparations for this ritual take a lot of time. In Japan this can even take years. In ancient times, it was the samurai who practiced the tea ceremony. That is why it is almost seen as something sacred.
It is crucial that the person conducting the ceremony knows how to properly prepare the tea. This can’t just happen any way. In the western world it may be difficult to do this with the same level of care and awareness as in Japan. In any case, the hostess will have to prepare the drink as perfectly as possible. The result should be pleasant for everyone. It must be a product of remarkable sensitivity and attention.
The guests should also know how to drink the tea. The ceremony consists of 15 steps and the guests should know them all in order to go through the ceremony properly. This may be seen as very complicated by outsiders, but it really isn’t. In fact, in the western world the tea ceremony is now more famous and performed more often than ever before.
The steps of a tea ceremony
The tea ceremony consists of 15 steps. Participants must go through each step in order for the ritual to be considered authentic. The steps are as follows:
- The hostess considers the 3 basic principles: peace, harmony and calm. She should focus on bringing these 3 elements to her guests.
- All elements used in the tea ceremony should be purified. Purity is central to this ceremony.
- There must be enough space for all guests and this space must be prepared to receive these guests. Keep their seating comfort in mind.
- Designate a guest of honor. This person will serve as an example for the rest of the guests. The guest of honor should be the first to enter the room.
- The hostess greets the guest of honor and exchanges a few nice words with him or her and all the other guests. She welcomes them in a generous and respectful way.
- The hostess offers something light to eat, such as pastries.
- All guests are required to dress formally. In the west people wear white.
- The tea ingredients—the water and tea leaves—should be ready by now. Everyone should be quiet and watch quietly while the tea is brewed.
The second phase
- The hostess slowly pours water into the teapot and lets everyone watch, listen and consciously experience every second.
- Then the hostess puts the tea leaves into the water with the same calmness as in the previous step.
- After this , the tea is quietly served per teacup. In some tea ceremonies, everyone first drinks from the same cup and only then each gets their own tea.
- The cups are distributed to the guests. When a guest receives his or her cup, he or she says a few words of gratitude or congratulates the hostess.
- The guests drink the tea.
- The tea ceremony has two rounds in which the tea is served. After the first round, the guests cover their cups with a plate. The basic ceremony then comes to an end.
The tea ceremony and meditation
The tea ceremony is also very useful for people who meditate. The lesson of the tea ceremony is as simple as it is profound: every moment in your life is unique and will never happen a second time.