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Discover the world of tea, from the history of its cultural significance to the science of its benefits and the art of its preparation.

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Discover the world of tea, from the history of its cultural significance to the science of its benefits and the art of its preparation.

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What Is a Matcha Ceremony?
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What Is a Matcha Ceremony?

5 Min Read | May 15, 2018

The history of matcha far predates its recent rise in global popularity; it has been the key ingredient of intricate Japanese tea ceremonies for centuries.

What is a matcha ceremony?

The history of matcha far predates its recent rise in global popularity; it has been the key ingredient of intricate Japanese tea ceremonies for centuries. This beautiful powder ground from full green tea leaves is also a popular kitchen ingredient known as much for its vibrant color as for its healthful properties, but matcha ceremonies in particular are a beautiful study in tradition, appreciation, and hospitality.

Matcha ceremonies are held for a wide variety of reasons. Meditative observances of winter sunrises, summer sunsets, and other seasonal shifts are common subjects of Japanese tea rituals. The joy of tea itself is considered cause for celebration as well: the first tea enjoyed in the new year is reason enough for a ceremony, and tea plays such a prominent role in Japanese culture, even the opening of a new tea jar warrants its own special ritual.

The matcha ceremony ritual

Today, levels of formality may vary from one gathering to another, but matcha ceremonies generally involve a similar series of events and utensils.

The matcha ritual begins with a presentation of the implements, including a small bowl (“chawan”), bamboo whisk (“chasen”), tea scoop (“chashaku”), linen cloth (“chakin”), hot water thermos, and extra water receptacle used for cleaning. The host (“teishu”) brings the objects into the room, along with the matcha itself and an offering of sweets.

Matcha Ceromy Kit

Tea Ceremony Etiquette

Matcha rituals may take place in a traditional Japanese tea house (“chashitsu”) or in someone’s home. The host prepares and serves the tea, and places a particular guest (“shokyaku”) in charge of communicating with the other guests, letting them know when to partake and how to interact.

Matcha Tea Ceremony

MATCHA TEA SETTING

In a traditional tea ceremony, nothing is consumed until directly offered, and words are only spoken upon invitation. Shoes are to be replaced by slippers prior to entering the room, and it’s important to speak with the shokyaku rather than the host throughout the ritual.

It’s customary to gently give the bowl a 45-degree (or so) turn prior to drinking from it, and to compliment something in the room. Every detail of the ceremony space is carefully chosen for the event, and it’s considered poor form not to appreciate it aloud before departing. A day or two later, a thank you card may be sent to the host to express gratitude for being invited.

Simple Matcha Preparation

You don’t have to attend a matcha ceremony to enjoy this delicious form of tea for yourself. Consider trying one of the more common ways to prepare it: “usucha,” which means “thin tea,” or “koicha,” which means thick tea.

For usucha, heat eight ounces of water until almost boiling, and then whisk it into a small bowl or teacup with one teaspoon of matcha until slightly frothy. For koicha, double the matcha and halve the water, and then use a whisk to blend them together until they’ve reached a paint-like consistency. Once prepared, take your time savoring one of the most timeless delights in the world, and perhaps beginning a daily matcha ritual all your own.

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