When I think of quintessential Japan I think of Geishas and Kimonos and tea ceremonies. I contacted En Tea Ceremony Experience to get an authentic tea cremony experience.
I arrived first which gave me special privileges including being the taste tester for the tea ceremony. My spot was on the very left. We sat down in a semi circle, traditionally on our legs but she said it was OK to sit cross legged. I, having just climbed Fuji was thankful I could even make it to the floor without crying so legs to the side like a lady is all I could manage. The first tea master took us through what would happen during the ceremony, a brief history of tea ceremonies and the utensils used which were mostly bamboo and iron. She informed us that this was not a real tea ceremony which entails being fully dressed in a kimono, bringing your own tools (knife, fan and paper) and having a formal occasion and complete silence.
She then filled me in on my role: tea drinker. My favorite.
Next came out another tea master shuffling in her beautiful kimono. She sat down on her legs and began to intricately wipe and move and whisk things in a flowy robotic sort of way until she produced a frothy tea and handed it to me. I love tea so I sipped it slowly, it was a bit bitter but in a good way and slightly thick. She shuffled away a few times with the utensils, elegantly of course, and the ceremony was over.
Next we got to make our own matcha tea. She brought out sweets as a precursor and we each took one and put it on our paper napkin. We arranged our tea cups with the pattern facing the host and grabbed 1.5 dainty scoopfulls of matcha tea powder and a 1/2 cup of boiling water. With our special bamboo whisk we whisked. We also failed. To make sure this tea wasn’t powder when drunk we had to whisk until frothy which is not easy for a beginner who is also trying not to spill green all over the tatami mat. Eventually we were able to drink our creation. Of course like the tea ceremony itself it also had rules and order to how it should be drank. Don’t drink from the pattern side turn clockwise twice, drink quickly and slurp at the end to let the host know we were finished and we appreciate them. Whew. I definitely didn’t do it correctly when I was the tester earlier.
And that was it. The entire experience was more of a crash course than an actual tea ceremony but from what I hear they are very uncomfortable as you have to sit quietly on your legs in your hot kimono while each guest is served and finishes their tea in turn. My legs would fall off if that were the case.
These days tea ceremonies aren’t very popular they didn’t translate to the younger generation which is a shame. A friend in Kyoto mentioned she used to go to a ceremony every Thursday with her gran and it was the worst day of the week sitting there in polite agony. Me being a tea lover, I have an rose colored view on the whole thing and it’s lovely. MY suggestion would be to go get all dolled up like a Maiko (apprentice Geisha) and reserve a private tea ceremony for you and your friends then spend the day walking around in Gion just up the street.