Tea Customs of Japan
Tea makes up a large part of Japanese life. It is served in star-class hotels, top-end restaurants and roadside vending machines alike.
Tea is religious for the Japanese. A tea ceremony has so many underlying meanings, such as guests cleaning themselves before entering the tea house symbolizing cleansing of one’s mind prior to the commencement of the sacred tea ceremony. The entrance is kept low, resulting in guests stooping to go in. This signifies humility and that everyone is similar.
A tea ceremony is meant for the guests to enjoy the calm and quiet, away from the chaos of everyday life. Tea houses are customarily surrounded by a garden; a stone basin of water for the guests to wash themselves before entering is at the door. The room is customarily decorated with an alcove where a hanging of flowers is displayed, and tatami floors. The chief guest sits closer to the alcove and others sit in a circle, in a “seiza” position with knees on the floor, and legs bent under them. Everyone takes another bow before the tea preparation starts.
Tea is carefully prepared and served to each individual separately. One must bow before accepting the tea, and again after finishing it. There are many customs with relation to a Japanese tea ceremony and most of it is spiritually aligned.
Food served at a Japanese tea ceremony is named “Cha-kaiseki”. This includes soup, rice, appetizers, and accompanying dishes with Sake (rice wine). The appetizers are distinguishes as “meat-based”, “plantbased”, “seafood”, and “mountain food”. Sweet items offered with tea are “Goma Mochi”, a rich cake made with sesame, “Monaka” is a Japanese wafer made with rice wafers and bean jam, and “Rubia” a plum fruit.