Elegant Japanese Tea Ceremony Culture


Japanese tea is an important part of the world’s tea and is regarded as an integral part of Japanese culture with a long history and profound tradition. Japanese tea culture is something tourists like to experience, and there are also specialised schools offering courses to learn Japanese tea ceremony culture. The main reason why foreigners are so fascinated is that the Japanese tea ceremony culture has very strict norms, certain rituals and every step has equal importance.


What is Japanese Tea Culture?

Japanese Traditional Tea Culture Background

Japan discovered tea by the Chinese around the 8th century. The tea ceremony was originally a religious activity, which was mainly dominated by activities. This was because matcha was expensive and considered a luxury, so only wealthy Japanese had access to matcha at that time.

Later Japanese tea ceremonies began to be performed by Buddhist monks to demonstrate the correct and graceful execution of this ritual. Around the 1100s, tea ceremonies in Japan became more secular, evolving into how we know it to be today.

The earliest tea drinking ritual in Japan was during the Kamakura period (1192-1333).A historical figure who loved the tea ceremony was Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the 16th century. He once went through great lengths to build a gold portable tea room, just to enable the emperor to drink tea.

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In the land of the rising sun, a tea culture flourishes like an ancient art, where each tea ceremony is a choreographed dance of mindfulness, a silent poem recited with every sip.


Tea Classroom – Japanese Tea Ceremony Culture

Japanese Tea Ceremony Culture

The tea ceremony is called “さどう(ちゃどう) Sadō (Chadō)” in Japanese. A full, formal Japanese tea ceremony is an event that lasts over an hour, beginning with a kaiseki meal with a cup of strong tea, and ending with a cup of light tea.

Traditional Japanese tea ceremony etiquette dictates precise hand movements to meticulously perform each step. A “tea party” is a casual tea ceremony for tea tasting, and a more formal occasion is called a “tea event”.

Embodying tradition, the tea ceremony is a revered Japanese custom that allows you to let go of worldly thoughts and focus on feelings of peace and tranquillity.

All of the tea ceremony tools need to be placed neatly before use, and proper procedures of tasting and observation must be followed during the process, otherwise it will be considered impolite to the ceremonial host.

It is very memorable to be able to experience the ancient tradition of a Japanese tea ceremony, and one must have enough experience and reputation to hold a tea ceremony.

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Japanese Tea Ceremony Keypoints

  • From Zen Buddhism

Tea ceremonies can be traced back to Zen Buddhism in 815 AD. At that time, the monk Yongzhong drank tea brought back from China, then made sencha himself and dedicated it to Emperor Saga. The emperor instantly became a huge fan, so much so that he ordered tea to be grown in the Kinki region of western Japan, which inevitably led the royal family and dignitaries to take up tea drinking.

  • Tea ceremony venues & dresswear

Traditional tea ceremony venues are surrounded by serene, yet simple Japanese gardens that enhance the calming spirit. In particular, Japanese gardens avoid brightly coloured or strongly scented flowers, as their fragrance can be distracting. Tea ceremonies are not casual settings, and therefore, kimonos are traditionally worn. The most important thing to avoid is wearing jewellery and watches, so as not to damage the tea bowls.

  • Traditional Tea Room – Tatami

Traditionally, Japanese tea ceremonies are held in tatami rooms. The entrance of the tea room will be at a relatively low height, so that the guests who enter must bend down, which symbolises humility. The chief guest enters the room and takes the seat closest to the alcove, followed by the other guests.

  • Japanese confectionary

Wagashi is served before tea and should be consumed before drinking. Japanese-style wagashi is a bean-based dessert that differs depending on the seasonal characteristics of each region.

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Classification of Japanese Tea

Japanese tea is divided into three categories according to the degree of fermentation, and the representative tea leaves of these three categories are Sencha, Gyokuro and Matcha.

  • Sencha: “steamed” and “rolled” tea

Sencha is the most ubiquitous Japanese green tea, accounting for nearly 70% of the tea leaves in Japan. Sencha is produced almost all over Japan, but has a very wide range of prices. The main production process is to steam and roll the tea leaves, followed by removing moisture while still retaining the needle-like characteristic.

Sencha can be consumed at any time of the day without keeping you up at night as it is low-moderate in caffeine. Sencha has a refreshing taste well served as both hot and iced.

  • Gyokuro: Low catechin tea after shading

The only difference between Gyokuro and Sencha is the cultivation method. Two to four weeks after Gyokuro is picked, the leaves should be covered to avoid sunlight.

This method of production can reduce the conversion of bitter “tannins” into catechins, which is the biggest feature of Gyokuro. Considering the pinnacle of Japanese tea art, Gyokuro accounts for less than 1 percent of Japan’s tea production, mostly in Kyoto.

  • Matcha: Dark-shaded tea with low catechins

The manufacturing process of Matcha also requires shading from the sun, but unlike Gyokuro, they are oven-dried and not rolled beforehand. The dry-steamed tea leaves become Arakcha (also known as Tencha てん茶 in Japanese), then the thick veins and stems are removed and grounded into matcha powder.

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Kyoto/Shizuoka, the Land of Japanese Tea Culture

Regarding the tea producing areas in Japan, someone once said, “Shizuoka tea has the most beautiful colour, and Kyoto Uji tea has the most fragrant smell.” These two areas are the most famous producing areas of Japanese tea.

  • Kyoto

Kyoto is the place where the tea ceremony was born, and it is the most famous and prolonged production area of Japanese matcha.

  • Shizuoka

Shizuoka, primarily known for its sencha (Honyama tea, Kakegawa tea, Kawane tea), is the largest tea producing area in Japan, accounting for about half of Japan’s tea production, mainly because Shizuoka’s rainfall and climate are very suitable for growing tea.

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In the land of the rising sun, where ancient rituals meet modern elegance, Japanese Tea Culture is a dance of grace and serenity, a celebration of the artistry of tea, where every gesture, every leaf, whispers the secrets of Zen in a cup.

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Modern Japanese green tea beverages found everywhere!

Nowadays, in addition to the traditional tea ceremony culture in Japan, green tea beverages are widely available in vending machines on the street, enabling you to taste the tea culture of Japan at any time.

Japanese green tea culture is deeply rooted into daily life, and Japanese people’s love for green tea can be seen in various restaurants, convenience stores, and homes. The next time you travel to Japan, don’t forget to try more tea from the country that is known for its exquisite and elegant tea ceremonies.

ABoxTik will continue to bring everyone different tea knowledge, including history and various analyses of tea culture. In hopes for everyone to acquire a better understanding of tea, please read through our articles. If you are interested in various tea cultures, as well as the history and knowledge of tea, you are welcome to explore more secrets of tea with ABoxTik products. Continue to follow our article updates, and visit our official website!