Aug. 01, 2018 UPDATE
The tea culture of Kyoto
Part 2

Tea ceremony in Kyoto

When it comes to the tea ceremony, Kyoto can be said to be the birthplace of this ritual. Or at least Kyoto is the place where Sen no Rikyu heightened this ceremonial way of enjoying.

The tea ceremony is a very simple affair with many rules, but it also has a somewhat mysterious feel to it – maybe because tea ceremonies usually take place in small, traditional Japanese rooms that can be a bit dark. There are three major schools of the tea ceremony, but we’ll talk of those the next time.
tea ceremony
There are many places in Kyoto where you can actually take part in a tea ceremony, and even stir your own matcha tea. The two we feature on our website are Tea Ceremony Room Ju-an and Japanese Tea Ceremony Experience En.

With both of these experiences, you get to talk to the person teaching you about the tea ceremony, and also see her make matcha tea according to the rules of the tea ceremony. Then you get to actually drink this matcha. But before drinking the matcha, remember to eat the traditional Japanese sweet you’re offered. It’s important to eat the sweet before you drink the tea, as it’s thought to lighten the bitterness of it. There are two types of teas, a lighter version of matcha known as usucha, and a stronger one known as koicha. The sweet also changes based on what type of matcha you have, if the matcha is stronger, the sweet will be sweeter.
drinking matcha
When drinking matcha in a tea ceremony, you are supposed to first rotate the cup a bit so that the pattern on it is not facing you. Then after you have drunk the matcha, you rotate it back so that the pattern faces you again. This is done so that the pattern doesn’t get dirty and also that the other people in the room can see the beautiful pattern on the teacup.

After watching the tea ceremony, you get to try stirring the matcha yourself. Matcha will taste sweeter and less bitter if you stir it well, so this is an important part of the tea ceremony. After you have stirred your tea (and possibly eaten a second traditional Japanese sweet), it’s time to say goodbye.

The tools used in the tea ceremony such as the bamboo tea whisk (chasen) are also something you may want to buy here in Kyoto before you head back home, as quality tools are easy to come by in Kyoto, but not as easy to find overseas. And if you really want to go the authentic way, remember to also buy a kimono in Kyoto (they can be surprisingly cheap!).
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