The Tea Ceremony at Shimintei

At Shimintei a teacher and her students demonstrated the art of the tea ceremony.
The tools used during the ceremony are simple, but there is complexity in every movement. Despite the almost mechanical precision to the entire process, there's something extremely graceful and balanced in all of the minute details, from the host's careful wiping, to the guest's exact turning, of the cup.

Sweets are served with the green tea during these ceremonies. The guest picks up the sweet with special o-hashi (chopsticks) and places it on a piece of folded paper. This ceremonial paper is called kaishi

The sweet is cut into at least two pieces; it's rude to eat the whole thing at once. The sweet served in the ceremony photographed was omanjuu, filled with adzuki bean paste and topped with gold flakes for the New Year.

After the demonstration we were allowed to try the process ourselves, both as hosts and guests. I failed in both respects. You are supposed to whisk the matcha powder with the hot water until it is frothy - the colour changes from a darker to a lighter shade of green. I love omelets and figured it was similar to beating eggs, but it's more difficult than it looks! I think a light touch may be key; otherwise you can't get up the speed you need to make the tea frothy. When its frothy enough, you turn the whisk round the bowl in a hiragana 'の' (I got this part right, at least).

As a guest there are also many parts to the ritual you have to observe... Bow before entering the room. Slide into the room on your knees. Bow at the toko (alcove) and take a moment to observe the scroll and other elements displayed there. When you walk don't step on the edges of the tatami. Walk six steps lengthwise across the tatami, or three steps width-wise. (That might be the most difficult. Yeah, I got a round of laughter for my failure in this aspect.)

I'd heard that the green tea in this ceremony is really bitter; but it tasted pretty good to me!

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