Zen Rituals in Japanese Tea Ceremony

by WriterArtist

Somewhere during the end of sixteenth century, the rituals and customs for the tea ceremony were getting established in Japan. Chanoyu and Chado were the two terms frequently used.

It is interesting to note that even before the Warlords and Elites of Japan embraced tea, it was an active, regular part of Zen rituals when monks drank tea to rejuvenate themselves for long hours of meditation. Tea is also served in the morning and evening in Vipassana Shivirs even today, wherein we are instructed to be alert and awake all the time even during our breakfast and meals.

A Japanese monk who travelled to China for studies and exploring the culture brought back with him the seeds of tea ceremony along with the seeds of tea plant in 11th century according to the sources available. The tea ceremony although a new concept was openly accepted by the elites, Royalties in Japan and many forms were adopted and explored to perfect zen, tea of art. It was a welcome gesture from a Geisha or a Maiko to the Lords in shivering wintery evenings.

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Author : renfield kuroda

Cha No Yu

Hot water for Tea

The Conspicuous Japanese Tea Ceremony Is just not taking your morning tea with snacks but is celebrating tea with Zen and the Nature. The principles of tea ceremony are rooted in Zen Buddhism. There is no doubt, tea arrived in Japan from China through Eisai Zenji, a Zen monk. It is just one of the many cultural arts adopted and perfected viz Bonsai, Kempo medicine etc.

One may encounter many terms and procedures to explain the tea ceremony. However, I will keep it to bare minimum.

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Way of Tea


Many of us take tea. British take their morning and afternoon tea , Indians take Chai without any rituals. Preparing tea and serving tea as a rule is devoid of rituals. A tea gathering with friends and relatives is enjoyable due to company.



Literal term for Chado means ‘ Way of Tea’. Traditional Japanese way of tea may seem like overload of rituals and hints of religious overtones. However, consider this:



Engaging in a mundane act of brewing tea or a simple lunch or dinner, one becomes aware and conscious, the mind thus gets refreshed and the spirit relaxes. An uncomplicated act of cooking or preparing tea if accompanied by worries can give a bad end result. However, a relaxed mind will live to a relaxed spirit with an exceptional awareness will enter into a blissful state. Zen monks practice this art of tea.

Lessons in Making Tea







The student masters the art of making tea for decades. Tea master polish it for years.




To achieve perfection, the tea host or hostess may spend decades mastering not only the measured proportions for serving tea in front of guests, but also learning to appreciate art, crafts, poetry, and calligraphy; learning to arrange flowers, cook, and care for an accompanied garden; and at the same time instilling in himself or herself the desired grace, selflessness, and attentiveness to the needs of others.

Japanese Style Cast Iron Teapot with 4 Tea Cups Trivet Tetsubin Tea Kettle with Infuser Chinese Iron Tea Set Black Gift for Adults, Family, Friend

Magpie and Plum Pattern
Japanese Style Cast Iron Teapot with 4 Tea Cups Trivet Tetsubin Tea...

The Tea Ceremony

Yōshū Chikanobu Cha no yu
Yōshū Chikanobu Cha no yu
Public domain via Wikimedia

Pottery used in Tea Ceremony

This Tea Ceremony uses:

Mizusashi - Water pot with its wooden lid.
Ro - Sunken earth
Hishaku - Bamboo ladle
Shakutate - vase for holding ladle
Chasen - Tea Whisk
Kama - Pot for boiling water
Futaoki - Lid rest(s), holding the lid of the Kama

Procedures in Making Tea







The art of making tea not only involves the quality of tea but also the steps involved in preparation and procedures followed in brewing tea and entertaining the guests. It emphasizes the hygiene and cleanliness. The utensils - Hagi and Karatsu are the potteries used in Tea Ceremony. The different kind of utensils used in the tea rituals are amazingly unique. Tea bowls that are famous are black Raku bowls.

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Japanese Tea Ceremony

Tea at Koken

Chanoyu Traditions



The traditional attire for the ceremony is Kimono or Yukata for ladies. The hostess needs to sit on bend knees with her back upright. Westerners may find this posture difficult. The guests have to wash their hands before entering the room with a narrow opening. The washing of hands would occur usually in a Zen garden or a Rock ground which initiates the foundation of serenity.

AN entire episode of a formal tea ceremony may involve a meal as well and can last around 4 hours. Koicha and Usucha are the terms used for two servings, the host prepares the tea in front of the guests, the entire proceedings are desired to meet aesthetics, spirituality and peace. It is not merry making , confusion, chaos and pandemonium. Chanoyu is an unique experience for which people travel to Japan to get a first-hand taste.

Sources Consulted

  • Zen and the Art of Tea, Alyssa Penrod. This paper was written for Dr. Joiner’s Non-Western Art History course
  • Experience Chanoyu: The Japanese Art of Tea, A Workshop for Educators May 5, 2007, Asian Art Museum Education Department
Updated: 06/03/2021, WriterArtist
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On your visit to Japan, do you want to attend a Japanese Tea Ceremony?

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DerdriuMarriner on 06/12/2023

The website Chanoyu World links Chado to spiritual advancement through considerate, disciplined, mindful ways. It links Chanoyu to aesthetic, intellectual and social advancement through beautiful setting and utensils more overtly than to spiritual advancement.

It mentions Chado as practicable with one person even as Chanoyu always needs one host and at least one guest.

That guest notices the power, social status and wealth of the Chanoyu host because Chanoyu orients its host to ever more expensive, ever rarer utensils.

The World History Encyclopedia online article Japanese Tea Ceremony says that Chado and Chanoyu always serve green tea.

Which ceremony -- Chanoyu World online suggests Chado as "attractive to so many" -- and which green tea variety would most visitors tend toward (or would there be no choice)?

WriterArtist on 05/14/2021

Dear DerdriuMarriner - In India, during my 10 days course of Vipassana, Indian Chai was served in the morning and evening devoid of any pomp and show. It was simple and served by Dhammasevaks and Dhammasevikas (people who give service). The idea is to renounce the world for 10 days and get a taste of a monk's life. We are taught to relinquish our egos, maintain noble silence and meditate. We are eternally grateful to people who provide us food and shelter.

WriterArtist on 05/14/2021

Hi DerdriuMarriner - You are right. One ought to visit Japan during the Cherry Blossom Festivals. You can combine many such events with Japanese Tea ceremony. It is a wonderful sight. I have watched on TV.

DerdriuMarriner on 05/13/2021

WriterArtist, Thank you for all the practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
From first learning about them, I've thought that a combination of cherry blossom festival activities and tea ceremonies would be a culturally enriching, educationally entertaining way to begin such a visit.
You mention Vipassana Shivirs. Would it be the same kind of tea no matter the timing and what kind (or kinds) would be served?

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