An Introduction to The Tea Ceremony

The French have wine, the Germans, beer, and the Japanese have Tea. This is not to say that the Japanese and Tea are the most important of the three, however morning, noon, and night we Japanese cannot be separated from, or live without Tea.

It is unbelievable that people do not know the origin, and history of how to drink Tea in the correct manner.

In addition, Tea has been considered medicinal, and held with the highest respect from ancient times. It is very nutritious, however some people unfortunately (carelessly) prepare the Tea in such a way as to loose all nutrition.

Japanese Tea is divided into two classifications, Matcha and Sencha. Sencha is divided into Gyokuro, Sencha, and Bancha. The variety of the Tea depends on the planting, care, and the manufacturing method.

When Japanese people think of Tea, they usually think of Matcha, the powdered Tea, (ghiki-cha) which is prepared by stirring the Tea with a whisk (gcha-sen) until frothy.

Since the time of Sennorikyu, this custom has been a physical, and mental factor of Japanese life. Currently everyone thinks of the Tea Ceremony or Matcha in this way. Today however we place greater importance on Sencha and its qualities.

The custom of drinking tea and the method of growing Tea originated from China.

In the oldest books dating from 729 AD Nara period, it is said that Tea was first introduced in China in the Toh period, it is also said that Tea was in existence before this time in both Japan and China.

In the beginning Tea was used for medical purposes, and was considered very valuable. It was bitter, and the color and fragrance was inferior, and very different from the Tea produced in Japan today. The inferior qualities were ignored for a time.

The word for teabowl, (gchawan) was developed, or came into being in the Toh period.

At the end of the 12th century, Eisaizenshi introduced what is commonly known as Tea today to Japan.

During the latter part of the 17th century, Ingen-zenshi and Sen-cha became popular in Japan.

It is said that towards the end of the 16th century, according to Sennorikyu, the Tea Ceremony was completed, and finalized. However at the end of the 18th century Kouyuge, nicknamed Baisao, criticized the formal Tea (Matcha) world, the Zen religion, and the Samurai class who practiced the ceremony. Baisao could have promoted the future direction of Sen-cha, but he did not teach this manner. In 1755 when he was 81 years old, he destroyed all of his materials and implements by burning them, all of the Tea Ceremony utensils, and materials which he had used for so many years.

After that, authors and calligraphers such as Akinari Ueda, Raisanyo, Mokubei Aoki spread the use of Sen-cha; it was Raisanyo who said "Those who do not know Sen-cha and its qualities are uncivilized.

The spirit of freedom was respected by the highest people in the literary world who disliked confinement and formality.

The world of Sen-cha was greatly respected by that literary world, from which came the group known as So-sho-ha (Philosophers), and like the literary artists of that time, the Philosophers also promoted sen-cha.

These two groups became popular at the end of the Edo, and beginning of the Meiji period, their history has been followed to the present day.

In other words, it is the utmost desire of the Sen-cha world that everyone will acquire a taste for and learn to enjoy Sen-cha in the correct manner.