Sunday, December 28, 2008

Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Japanese Tea Ceremony has fascinated me, probably since Karate Kid. I'm not sure why. The discipline, the ritual, the sacredness perhaps. It's just beautiful. I guess when you don't have those kinds of rituals in your life, you're fascinated by it in others. I again became fascinated by the ritual after reading Memoirs of a Geisha. Japanese society and their rituals became even more intriguing. To top it off I love Maccha. I'm not a huge tea fan. I have lots of it in my cupboard, because I'm always trying to make myself like it. I figure it would be better to drink it in the morning rather than coffee, in order not to raise my blood pressure. I should drink chamomile in the evenings rather than wine, but I just can't enjoy it the same. But! The one tea I do enjoy is powdered green tea, or maccha. The flavor is just so intense. It's got a brightness to it that I can't explain and it goes so well with something slightly sweet. So, I began my hunt for Maccha, both here in Humboldt and on line. I had no success, until on my and my husbands anniversary we walked into a little shop called All Under Heaven on 212 F St. in Eureka CA. They had little tins of Maccha along with tea bowls and bamboo whisks. I told my husband, "that's what I want for Christmas". Well he couldn't remember the whisk, but he did remember the Maccha. Yeah Me!
So, last night I pulled out my tin of Christmas Maccha served up the girls, me and my husband an impromptu Japanese Tea Ceremony. This is what you do:

First you clean the serving bowls and boil the water. Serve a sweet treat before serving the tea (I served dried figs) You mix the Maccha and water and whisk it until it's frothy. The contrast of the bitterness of the tea and the sweetness of the treat served before represents harmony. (I just love Japanese traditions - they're so cool).

When you receive the tea or chauwan take it in your right hand, place the cup in your left palm and turn clockwise three times before you drink. When you're done, slurp loudly to express how good the tea was.

Wipe the cheuwan where your lips touched with our right hand, turn counter clockwise and return to the host.

This type of tea ceremony is called a chakai and will take from 20 minutes to an hour. (We probably squeezed it into 10 minutes - that's about all you can manage with a 10 and 5 year old.) We were no where near honoring a traditional tea ceremony. That would take years of practice, but it was fun introducing our children to another culture's traditions. One that can be centering, artful, even religious. The Japanese have so many beautiful traditions that are artful and centering. I think it's wonderful that many of them center around food and drink, such as this tea ceremony. I think our culture could use more sacredness around our food and drink. It would make eating more precious, and less of a sport, and more of a wholesome part of our lives, rather than an issue.

I think I'll consider making more of my own sacred traditions when it comes to food in my and my family's lives. Maybe you should too?

1 comment:

Amanda said...

What fun! Will the Japanese tea ceremony become part of your Christmastime traditions? It sounds like something that would become special with kids.