Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Making a brew, the Japanese way..

Me making a brew. I never thought picking up a spoon could be so complicated

In our wonderful yukatas we made our way to the entrance of another tatami mat room for our tea ceremony. Just to give you some background on the Japanese tea ceremony. The art of making tea, in traditional Japanese sense of the word, has to be the antithesis of making a quick brew with your Tetley teabags back home.

The tea ceremony (茶道, sadō), or "the Way of Tea," is the highly ritualised ceremonial preparation and presentation of the powdered green tea known as matcha. These tea ceremonies can last up to 4 hours so be warned, sitting on my knees for half an hour nearly killed me, 4 hours would have felt like a marathon!

When we reached the entrance we were instructed to sit on our knees and were shown the traditional way to enter a tea room although the ladies themselves were a bit confused as to which hand goes where. Definitely comforting to know even the locals get confused!

After a women’s institute type debate we eventually entered the room, first me then mum, opening the wooden screen door with the right hand to halfway, then with your left complete the opening of the door (this may not be correct but it was something along these lines). Then on your knees shuffle along the floor in 3 or 4 fluid movements until you reach the tea making area. We were in! That part took such a long time I was wondering how long actually making the tea would take.

First we were served some biscuits, a bit like pink wafers. Apparently the flavours of the sweets and bitter tea compliment each other and is a sign of harmony. The older Japanese lady demonstrated how to make tea.
The utensils, a tea bowl, whisk and tea scoop are placed in a pyramid arrangement. She placed a spoonful of green tea powder into the bowl with water from the hot clay pot using a wooden scoop. (NB Important to make sure the water scoop is placed on top of the pot in the correct way!)

Pot for boiling water (note position of water scoop)

She then whisks the tea with a wooden whisk, a bit like preparing an omelette.

Mum whisking up the green tea like an omlette

When you receive the tea, you have to bow and then raise your bowl of tea (known as chawan) in a gesture of respect to the host. You then have to place the chawan in your left hand and rotate the bowl with your right hand three times clockwise, You then turn take a sip, wipe the rim and then rotate the bowl back

Mum turning her chawan, serious concentration going on here!

We then had a go at tea making part but there were so many things to remember it’s hard to get it right, even the way you put down the spoon. Mum was way better than me, she’s obviously just made more omelettes!

Fab experience all round and in mum's top 3 for her trip to Japan.

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