The World Is a Tea Party Presents: Your Guide to Japanese Teas – Chanoyu

We don’t consider this guide complete but rather a work in progress.
Please feel free to submit additions and changes to us.
We will add them in and credit you at the point of edit.

Return to first page of guide

In Japan, tea is a part of everyday life but also as part of an elaborate and historic tea ceremony called chanoyu (茶の湯).

Tea drinking in Japan dates from 9th century AD, but matcha dates from 12th century AD, when Myoan Eisai, a Japanese monk, brought some back from China. Chanoyu (literally “the way of tea”) began in the 15th century; tea master Murata Juko developed a spare, simple aesthetic associated with traditional tea ceremonies. Further refinement of the ceremony was done in the 16th century by another famous tea master named Sen no Rikyu.

tea_ceremony_performing_2Tea Ceremony. [Source]

The tea ceremony was developed to express the ideals of harmony, purity, respect, tranquility, and appreciation for the moment. During the tea ceremony, both hosts and guests aim to express these ideals. In some tea rooms the tea utensils are designed to express wabi, a simple, unadorned, rustic aesthetic introduced by tea master Sen no Rikyu.


Today there are two main types of tea ceremony:

  1. Chakai (茶会) – “Tea gathering” – Short, more casual, but with a strict pattern and proper etiquette to follow, may include a light meal, usually nothing more than sweets are served.
  2. Chaji (茶事) – “Tea event” – More formal with a much more elaborate four course meal called a kaiseki, can last as long as four hours.

See Teawares page for equipment used.

General tea ceremony steps:

  • Preparation – the host selects a theme for the ceremony, decorates the tea room/house accordingly, selects flowers, and arranges for a meal and/or sweets.
  • Waiting Time – Guests arrive and wait outside until preparations are complete. Once the tea room is ready, the main guest or guest of honor goes in first behind the host.
  • Calligraphy – A scroll by a Buddhist master hung in a small alcove called a tokonoma. The mean-ing of the scroll reflect the theme. Guests ad-mire the tokonoma, then sit and exchange greetings.
  • Meal Time –
    Chaji: the guests are served the multi-course kaiseki meal along with some sake.
    Chakai: guests may be served a light meal or simply sweets.
  • Tea Time – After the sweets. The guests focus on the host as he prepares the tea. The process is almost like a dance, a series of carefully choreographed tasks and motions. Each step,l from making the fire to scooping the tea to mixing it all up has to be done a certain way. Once the tea is ready, the host serves the main guest first.
  • Types of Tea – Koicha, the thicker, sweeter and more expensive grade of matcha, is served in a single bowl that all guests will share. Usucha, which is thinner, is served in individual tea bowls. At some tea ceremonies, both types of tea are served. In these cases, koicha is served first and usucha is served after. After the tea has been consumed and the utensils have been cleaned, the guests will take a moment to observe and compliment them. Utensils and teaware are often quite valuable and may be heirlooms or antiques. Then, the guests and the host exchange good byes, and the tea ceremony is over.

tearoomlayoutTearoom layout. [Source]

© 2016-2020 World Is a Tea Party photos and text


Guest writers are welcome – just send us a private message in Facebook or Twitter.


FREE to you! No PAY WALL! Well-researched, up-to-date info on tea and more!

%d bloggers like this: