Asian tea ceremonies: Chanoyu and Sencha-do

In difference to the everyday occidental tea customs, the Asian tea ceremonies are part and expression of a way of life. They are rooted in the appreciation for the preparation of tea as an act of conscious and caring hospitability. With utensils perfectly adept for the purpose, high quality tea is prepared in a beautiful environment.

Japanese tea ceremony: Chanoyu 茶の湯

“The spirit of the tea is the spirit of peace, and the culture of tea is a culture of hospitability”
Sen Sōshitsu XV 十五代目千宗室.

About 1500 years ago, Buddhist monks brought tea plants from China to Japan. This was the beginning of the development of a great tea culture, the everyday action of drinking tea was raised into a unique form of art. This encompasses architecture, gardening art, ceramics and much more. The Japanese tea ceremony cannot be described in a few words. Tea ceremony is more than the art of an ever-so highly refined everyday action like “making tea for guests”. It is much more a lifelong striving that does not only aim at perfecting certain skills, but at an encompassing change of one’s way of life.
Hence, the tea master keeps learning throughout his or her whole life, just like the pianist e.g. does. The Japanese tea ceremony does not seem accessible at the first glance, a bit like a demanding classical work. The one who attends it for several times, though, giving him- or herself into the experience, finds beauty in the clear structure, the perfectly coordinated movements of the hands as well as the greater whole, which includes the space, the artful objects, the inner and outer attitude and posture, and even the conversations. In the Japanese tea ceremony, the ideal moment of being according to the Buddhist rules is created. This is why the Japanese tea ceremony belongs to the worldwide most highly elaborated and refined forms of welcoming a guest.

Sen no Rikyū 千利休 (1522-1591) influenced the development of the Japanese tea ceremony significantly. He placed the following conceptions into the centre of the Way of Tea:

Harmony (wa ) – means on the one hand the harmony between host and guest, as well as the harmony of the presented items, i.e. the harmony in the room.
Respect (kei ) – for the guest and in the careful and attentive, even meticulous handling and appreciation of the used objects.
Purity (sei ) – the cleanliness and order of the utensils, but also the purity of one’s heart in the sense of sincerity and openness.
Tranquility (jaku ) – The inner contemplation, attention and the therefrom resulting insight and serenity.

The Japanese tea ceremony is often described as a form of meditation. This is right in the way that, if something is done with full concentration (doing it oneself, or looking at or listening to something), the mind becomes free of all thoughts.
The preparation of the tea is part of a longer ceremony, the so-called Chaji 茶事. A Chaji lasts for about four hours and entails the charcoal ceremony, a meal consisting of five to eight courses and a concluding tea ceremony.
LaenggassTee offers you a Chaji on demand for four to five participants. Only on Sundays (15.30-19.30).

Chanoyu at Länggass-Tee

Japanese tea ceremony: Sencha-do 煎茶道

This ceremonial Japanese way of preparing loose leaf tea is based on the Chinese tea ceremony from the Song dynasty (960-1276). The monk Ingen (1592-1673) brought this kind of preparing tea (and the loose leaf tea instead of the commonly used grounded tea) to Japan. Sencha-do and the Chinese Gong Fu Cha coexist besides each other.

Similar to the Chanoyu, Sencha-do also can be practised as a ceremony. Whereby spiritual values and a certain aesthetic are pursued. The "everyday" Sencha-Do preparation as such is characterised by several infusions of the same tea in a suitable vessel, e.g. a Kyusu or a Shiboridashi.

For all japanese green teas incl. Gyokuro:
2-3g (ca. 1tsp) tea leaves and 70ml water per person, temperature 70°C.
1st infusion 30-90s, 2nd infusion just under 30s, 3rd infusion up to 60s.
From the 2nd infusion onward possibly raise temperature to 80°C.
For just one person 4-5g tea leaves

Concentrate especially for Gyokuro:
3-4g (1-2tsp) tea leaves und 30ml Wasser per person, temperature 50°C.
1st infusion 1.5-2min, 2nd infusion just under 1min, 3rd infusion up to 2min.
From the 2nd infusion onward possibly raise temperature to 60-70°C.

Further infusions are possible with both variants, depending on the quality of the tea used. The tea is usually poured directly from the infusion vessel (Kyusu, Hohin, Shiboridashi) into the cups. Of course, a pouring jug can also be used. A a further vessel, like a samashi, can be used to temper the water.

The longer steeping times and lower water temperatures are the main differences in the functional processes of Sencha-do and Gong Fu Cha. The choice of the appropriate dishes and the environment in which this kind of preparing tea takes place are of course essential components and make up the more or less ceremonial character of the event.



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