L’art de la cérémonie du thé japonaise
japan sword tea katana
What Westerners call tea ceremony is called in Japanese chanoyu, a word which breaks down into chanoyu and literally means "hot water of tea". This term designates the ceremony itself; a broader term, chaji, refers to a complete ritual with a preliminary snack called kaiseki and the service of two teas, strong tea or koicha and light tea or usucha. We can also meet the term chakai, literally "meeting over tea", which refers to the service of two teas but without the snack.
The art and study of the tea ceremony is called chadō or sadō, which translates to "the way of tea." According to the principles of Zen Buddhism, this is one of the paths that can be taken to achieve absolute serenity. Studying and learning all the elements of the tea ceremony, including the many accessories, the gestures to be performed, and all the ancillary elements of the ceremony, can take years or even a lifetime.
History of the tea route.
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Tea, a drink made from the infusion of the leaves of the tea tree (Camelia sinensis), is native to China. The very origin of tea is legendary: among the many myths recounting its emergence and first uses, one involves the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism. As he searched for nirvana by depriving himself of food and sleep, he was overcome with fatigue and fell asleep. When he woke up, ashamed of having given in to fatigue, he cut his eyelids so as not to close his eyes and threw them to the ground.
A shrub grew where the eyelids had fallen, and Bodhidharma discovered that its leaves had the power to keep him awake for further meditation, so he then donated tea to all men. This legend has the merit of explaining the existence of a close link between Zen Buddhism and tea.
Originally from China, the tea plant was introduced to Japan in the 6th century. At the beginning of the 9th century, Chinese author Lu Yu wrote a later famous work on tea, the Tea Classical or Cha Ching. In this book, he described precisely the cultivation and preparation of tea, in a style strongly influenced by his religion, Zen Buddhism. Imported to Japan by Chinese Buddhist monks, the Tea Classic probably influenced the development of the Japanese tea ceremony as it exists today.
It was in the 12th century that matcha appeared, a green tea crushed between two stones until it was powdered. Also native to China, it was introduced to Japan by the monk Eisai, who was also the pillar of Zen Buddhism in Japan. The use of matcha was first exclusively religious in Buddhist monasteries, then it was customary in these monasteries to serve tea to important visitors, so that it was gradually adopted by samurai and Japanese nobles. At the same time, Chinese customs abandoned powdered tea as it became increasingly known and used in Japan.
From the 16th century, the use of tea spread throughout Japanese society with the opening of tea houses or ochaya, which subsequently saw the appearance of the famous geisha, companions who mastered traditional Japanese arts such as music. , dance, calligraphy but also the tea ceremony.
At the same time, three monks laid the foundations for the ritual of preparing and tasting tea.
Murata Shuko (1422 - 1503) was the first to suggest that the preparation and tasting of tea could be practiced as a meditation exercise corresponding to the philosophy of Zen Buddhism. He also imposed the idea of ​​the use of simpler instruments, opposed to the precious and richly decorated instruments of Chinese origin used until then, as well as that of the tea pavilion or small chashitsu, intended to bring the participants together. .
It is also to Takeno Jō (1504 - 1555) that we owe the abandonment of ostentatiousness in the utensils and places used for chanoyu. Following the ideas of Murata Shuko, he specially designed utensils for the tea ceremony in a very simple style, as well as a small cabinet for storing them and which is still in use today.
Finally, the tea master Sen no Rikyū (1522 - 1591) imposed the Wabi style for the tea ceremony, that of sober and calm refinement, which still presides over the organization of the tea ceremony today. Based on the principle that each meeting is a unique event that can never be repeated in the same way1, the tea ceremony should celebrate the beauty of nature, respect between participants and simplicity. For this same reason, chanoyu is an intimate gathering, where there are never more than five guests in all.
Sen no Rikyū was forced by Emperor Hideyoshi Toyotomi to kill himself by
ritual suicide or seppuku, but the principles he had brought to chanoyu were preserved thanks to his three great-grandchildren, who founded the three main schools of chadō: Omotesenke ("House of Sen from the front"), Urasenke ("House of Sen de behind ”) and Mushanokōjisenke (“ Sen House of Samurai Street ”). The rules of chanoyu froze and caused him to lose popularity, restricting him to the upper classes of the samurai.
In 1868, the Meiji government restored prestige to Chanoyu by having it included in the educational curriculum for young girls. This gave this ceremony of male origin a more feminine aspect that it still has today: it is not uncommon for women to officiate at the chanoyu.
The tea ceremony still uses the principles of Zen Buddhism today. The presence of tea or chashitsu pavilions in the middle of a garden encourages, on the way, to contemplate nature and meditate on its beauty. The uncluttered appearance of the pavilions and their minimalist but neat decoration allows one to contemplate the splendors of simplicity. Finally, the tea ceremony, by its various elements, is a synthesis of many aspects of Zen Buddhism, while ultimately having the sole purpose of preparing and drinking a bowl of tea. Sen no Rikyū writes: “Tea is nothing more than this: to heat water, to brew the tea, and to drink it properly. "
Matcha, sometimes transcribed as maccha, is green tea, that is, unfermented tea, reduced to powder by grinding between two stones.
The preparation of the matcha begins on the tea plants a few weeks before the harvest: the trees are covered with mats to protect them from sunlight, which makes the leaves smaller and darker, and also richer in chlorophyll and acids. amines that will soften the bitterness of the tea.
The way of harvesting also has an influence on the nature of the tea harvested: if the harvested leaves are rolled up, the resulting tea is gyokuro which is consumed as is as an infusion; gyokuro is considered one of the best Japanese green teas. If, on the contrary, the leaves are left straight, we speak of tencha; it is this crushed and powdered tencha that is then called matcha. If we powder another type of green tea, we will not speak of matcha but only of konacha, literally "powdered tea".
Green tea is, by its absence of fermentation, rich in gallocatechin, a powerful antioxidant. It also contains a lot of theanine, an amino acid known for its anti-stress effect.
tea matcha japan sword katana
Preparation and serving of matcha
tea matcha japan sword katana
Matcha needs to be sifted first. A tightly meshed stainless steel sieve is used for this. The tea can be passed through the sieve using a wooden spatula or a stone.
Once sifted, the matcha is stored for the chanoyu in a tea box or chaki. There are two main types: the boxes called pulpit are large and narrow, ceramic with an ivory lid covered with gold; however, it is common to use another type of box, called a natsume because of its resemblance to the fruit of the same name (the jujube or Chinese date). The natsume is made of lacquered wood, often decorated with gold.
During chanoyu, the host takes the desired amount of matcha from the pulpit or natsume using a tea scoop or chashaku, a kind of small spatula carved from a piece of bamboo with a nodule in its center. The chashaku can also be made of ivory. He then adds the appropriate amount of hot water using a bamboo ladle or hishaku (柄 杓), or a kettle. The water is heated on a charcoal stove or furo.
Matcha, due to its peculiar powdered form, is not infused but beaten. The host uses a bamboo tea whisk or chasen for this. A sign of the great respect for chanoyu instruments in general and the chasen in particular, damaged chasen are often brought to Buddhist temples where, once a year, usually in May, they are ritually burnt by priests during a ceremony. ceremony called chasen koyō.
There are two main types of tea preparation. Thick tea or koicha is made by diluting 3 chashaku per serving in 40 ml of hot water. The chasen used to beat the koicha is thicker and the mixture is done slowly so as not to produce foam. The resulting tea is thick and sweet in taste. Light tea or usucha is made by diluting 1 and a half chashaku per serving in 75 ml of hot water. As this tea is more diluted, a finer chasen and faster movements are used to beat it; there may be a light coating of scum there after being beaten. Lighter, usucha is also more bitter on the palate.
The tea is served in a tea bowl or chawan which is the essential part of chanoyu: without a bowl, tea cannot be prepared, served or drunk. Beforehand, the bowl is ritually cleaned using a square of white linen called a chakin.
The chawan is made of Japanese ceramic, and should ideally be handcrafted by a renowned potter. There are many styles of tea bowls depending on the time of manufacture, the ceremonial style or the type of tea.
Generally, in the summer, shallow, flared bowls are used, allowing the tea to cool quickly; in winter, on the contrary, deeper bowls are used to retain the heat of the tea. In any case, the oldest bowls are the most expensive and the most popular, it can even happen that bowls over 400 years old are used on prestigious occasions. The best bowls are handcrafted, and imperfections are sought after, as they must remind the imperfection of the world and of human nature: the bowl must be held so that they appear in the front. Decorated with lacquer and gold powder, the bowls are frequently named by their creator or by the tea master who owns them.
All the instruments used for the tea ceremony, including those mentioned above, are called chadōgu.
The contemplation
Chanoyu, in the spirit of Zen Buddhism, gives pride of place to contemplation. Admiring the beauty of nature and the simple things is a way for Buddhists to break away from the ugliness and vulgarity of everyday life.
Thus, a guest of a tea ceremony should admire everything that surrounds him, starting with the path that leads to the chashitsu and the garden that it crosses. Once in the pavilion, which is only possible after having purified his mouth and hands, the host takes the time to soak up the harmony of its interior architecture and decorations such as calligraphy. or the chabana. During this time, conversations should be kept to a minimum so as to also enjoy the sonic harmony created by the murmurs of the fountain and the fire in the fireplace. When the chanoyu begins, guests contemplate the utensils used by the host for the ceremony. After this, the guest of honor asks the host to allow the guests to examine the utensils. They must be handled with care because they are rare and precious, often old; this manipulation is done through a special fabric, the fukusa. Guests should take the time to examine and contemplate the instruments of the ceremony; it is also fashionable to ask the host a little about their origin.
The chanoyu must meet four main principles inspired by Zen Buddhism and described by the tea master Sen no Rikyū:
Wa means harmony. It is the harmony of the relationship between host and guest that gives meaning to the tea ceremony, which should be a harmonious sharing where everyone receives as much as they give. All the elements that make up the chanoyu environment must also be in harmony; each of them has meaning, both on its own and for the ceremony, where no element is unnecessary.
Kei (敬) means respect. During the chanoyu, everyone must understand and respect the others. Each participant in the tea ceremony should treat the people and objects around them with the utmost respect, which will allow them to be worthy of respect as well.
Sei means purity. This principle is illustrated by the ritual purifications before entering the chashitsu, as well as by the various rites of cleaning the instruments of the ceremony before and after the tea service. But beyond a simple physical cleanliness, these purifications are a reminder that it takes a pure heart, free from all pretension, to appreciate chanoyu and, more generally, what surrounds us.
Jaku means tranquility. It is the state of serenity which can only be achieved when the other three principles are realized. Chadō, the path of tea, when walked to the end, allows one to deeply understand chanoyu and what it represents, and to achieve absolute tranquility.

Texts taken from Claire Billaud's treatise
Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC-ND

Article "Chanoyu" on French Wikipedia: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chanoyu Article "Matcha" on French Wikipedia: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matcha Article "Gyokuro" on French Wikipedia: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyokuro
Article on Japonismus.com: http://www.japonismus.com/voiethechashitsu.html
Article on Matsumiya.info: http://www.matsumiya.info/pageswmv/3CEREMONIEDUTHEPC
Article on Clickjapan.org: http://www.clickjapan.org/Art_japonais/Ceremonies_du_the.htm
Article on a blog of Lemonde.fr: http://ambatill.blog.lemonde.fr/2007/11/27/chanoyuouchado meeteautourduthe /
Article on takedaryucarcassone.chezalice.fr: http: //www.takedaryucarcassonne.chez alice.fr/le_chanoyu.htm
Article on sommelierthejaponais.blogspot.com: http: // sommelierthe Japonaise.blogspot.com/2010/12/sadoetsenchadopetiteshistoires.html
"Chanoyu" article on English Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/Chanoyu Chanoyu.com site: http://www.chanoyu.com/indexa.html
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