Posted in Kafevend Blog

If you had the chance to read the blog entitled 'The wisdom of tea' the other day, you will have noticed the very different attitude to tea drinking in Japan. The poetic wisdom that surrounds it is an insight into the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, an aesthetic and spiritual discipline that can take years to fully understand and master. The closest custom we have in the UK is afternoon tea, which is informal by comparison.

The Japanese tea ceremony is also called the Way of Tea and has deep links with Zen Buddhism. To enter a traditional Japanese tea house you will need to stoop, possibly even crawl in; the entrance is small so that worldly accoutrements are left outside. The tea garden it is set in is walled to block out the hubbub of everyday life. Small, contained and precisely grown, it provides a peaceful environment to calm the mind. The interior of the tea house is kept very simple – guests and host sit on the floor and just the equipment necessary for the ceremony itself is brought in. The only decoration will have been carefully chosen to reflect the season or a chosen theme. It might be a flower arrangement, a painting or calligraphy on a hanging scroll. The guests will discuss the object on display, showing due appreciation of its beauty and aesthetic nature. The implements used to make and serve the tea will also be accorded praise and consideration. Indeed the most formal of ceremonies can last up to four hours.

In the weeks ahead we'll be returning to various elements of the Japanese tea ceremony: the utensils used, the costume worn, how to become a tea master and so forth, but hopefully this overview has provided a new meaning for the proverbs we looked at on Monday. Thus, 'If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty' is a reflection of tea's cultural status and the great worth ascribed to following the Way of Tea.

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