Wednesday Morning Tea Bliss

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Delicious wagashi and matcha tea

It’s been awhile since I posted about my chado, or tea, lessons so here it is…

I’m still trudging along and learning new procedures. A fellow student and I applied for the basic certificate of chado through our school. Our sensei (teacher) helped us prepare the application form which she submitted this past weekend. Woohoo! We’re on our way to becoming official tea students!

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Fellow tea student practicing tea ceremony

In the meantime, we are practicing several new procedures. Over the past few weeks, I have learned a soothing summer tea ceremony, how to properly serve tea to Japanese royalty, using a leaf to cover my mizusashi, how to serve tea to royalty and their assistants, and how to perform tea ceremony with a shelf. Yes, there are literally numerous variations to each procedure I learn. It’s been fun and challenging but I love every minute of it.  We have 16 procedures to learn for this basic certificate and I’ve only covered about half. I definitely have my work cut out for me by this November!

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Fellow tea student enjoying tea during our weekly lesson

I won’t only be preparing for the tea certificate but several performances in late October and early November. I am excited to get out and try my skills again in front of guests. But until then, I will thoroughly enjoy what I refer to as my Wednesday Morning Tea Bliss. It’s my mid-week recharge where I get to enjoy delicious wagashi (Japanese sweets), matcha tea, and girl time.

xxCourtney

A Day of Firsts

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Performing tea ceremony
Photo credit: NAF ATSUGI MWR

It was a day of firsts….

My first time performing tea ceremony.

My first time wearing a kimono.

My first time being asked for an autograph.

My first time having insanely large camera lenses in my face!

The morning of the performance I was a nervous wreck. Would I mess up? Would I be able to walk in zori shoes? Would I remember the Japanese phrases, or mash them all together like I’d been doing throughout the week? Deep breath in, exhale…

An experienced fellow tea student told us that many Japanese don’t fully know the intricacies of tea ceremony.  So while we aim for perfection, slight mess-ups probably would go unnoticed. Whew!

Throw in the wind that kept toppling our chasaku (tea scoop), the addition of a stand to hold up the chasen (tea whisk) and all those other “X” factors, we learned to just give into the moment and enjoy the experience.

In the end, we were thanked by many for serving them tea, learning an ancient Japanese art, explaining tea ceremony procedure to them, and allowing them to photograph us.

It was a beautiful day and I can’t wait for my next performance.

xxCourtney

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Pouring in the hot water.
Photo credit: NAF ATSUGI MWR

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Cleaning the chasen, or tea whisk
Photo was given to me by Japanese participant

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Caught enjoying the performance!
Photo was given to me by Japanese participant

Becoming Graceful

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Japanese matcha with strawberry daifuku

This past January, I was given the opportunity to learn chado, or the Japanese way of tea.  I was excited to delve deeper into Japanese culture through this disciplined and intricate process. Little did I know how much I was biting off…

Chado is complex. Very complex!  There are over 16 different procedures. The major factor in determining the procedure is the season, winter or summer. This changes the layout of the room, what equipment is used and if you need to open/close the shoji screens. From there, it varies based on any number of reasons. If thick or thin matcha tea is being served. Whether there’s a table or not. What type of pot/kettle is used for the ceremony. And the list goes on and on.

Outside memorizing the actual procedures, the hardest aspect for me to grasp is being fluid and elegant in my hand movements. I think it’s safe to say that “graceful” is rarely a term used to describe me. I definitely could have benefited from some ballet classes in my younger years! But over the past few months, I have started to become slightly graceful. I no longer have “the claw” hand while its resting on my lap and I’m able to flick the “sexy wrist” elegantly as I’m cleaning the chawan, or tea bowl.

It’s only been 3 months of chado practice at this point. I’m a poor tea host as I can only serve thin matcha tea. But with time, I will expand and begin to learn more complex procedures. I just need to master the table procedure for thin tea that I will be performing (*gasp*) in front of Japanese nationals who will attend the open base event this late April.

It’s been challenging, overwhelming and incredibly complex (the thought of 16 procedures is still boggling my mind!) yet it has become my happy place.  I look forward to meeting each Wednesday morning to focus on being in the moment, sampling new Japanese sweets and achieving perfect foam on the tea.