A Japanese tea ceremony is one of the special occasions to showcase Japanese tea culture and what comes with it. The celebration is defined with specific tea types that are brewed using distinct methods stipulated in the Art of Tea and several other tea books.
For Japanese tea ceremonies, brewers use exact methods. The tea preparation methods are distinct and unique for every tea types. To avoid any mistake and realize an exquisite brew, brewers employ different types of teaware to make everything a success. Today, we are going to look at the very key types of utensils that cannot miss out on the celebrations.
Chawan is the most significant equipment when preparing tea during the Japanese ceremony. The name is used to refer to a traditional bowl that originated from China. In Japan, Chawan has a long string of historical records more so when it comes to a Japanese tea ceremony. Tenmoku, one of the common designs had been in the use for the occasion since the 16th century. Usually, the bowls derive their names from the mountains they normally come from and after the master behind their designs.
In modern celebration, Japanese use two types of bowls depending on the seasonality and type of tea prepared. Deep bowls are used during the colder seasons for their outstanding abilities to hold heat during tea sipping. On the other hand, shallow Chawans are used during the hot seasons for faster cooling.
Of worth noting is the fact that not all Chawans are the same when it comes to design and materiality. Japanese uses iron, wooden, stoneware and ceramics to make the antiques. Depending on your personal preferences, you can choose what benefit you as the host and your guests during the ceremonies.
Lastly, Japanese adores Chawans. The older your bowl is the higher the likelihood to achieve two main principles of Japanese tea ceremony—wabi and sabi. Therefore, whenever a bowl cracks, crafters caulk them using lacquer and other additives. For special occasions, some hosts use tea bowls that date back to more than four hundred years.
Chasen is the second-most important tool that cannot miss out on any Japanese tea ceremony. These are usually whisks made mainly with bamboo sticks to stroke the leaves and hot water rapidly when preparing the green matcha drink.
The Japanese tea ceremony is all about showing exquisite knowledge about the Art of Tea. Therefore, to attain flavours that impress the guest, the host must carefully curate the options well when it comes to choosing what chasen to use.
Though made exclusively with bamboo sticks, Japanese whisks come in a wide range of options. They feature small differences in terms of materiality, shapes, and the tea preparation method to employ.
Japanese whisks are crafted from three types of bamboo, smoked, dried and fresh bamboo. They come with either rough, medium or fine heads. Usually, the coarseness is determined by the number of teeth that the antique has. Finally, your method of tea preparation which primarily depends on the type of tea greatly affects the choice of your chasen. For Japanese tea ceremonies, you can either brew a thin tea (Usucha) or a thick tea (Koicha)
Chashaku is the Japanese name for tea ladle used mainly for scooping tea from either Natsume or Chaire – traditional storage equipment. Or, to transfer the tea powder to a caddy, also known as Mizuiya in Japan.
Maybe you can ask yourself why you need a Chashaku for a tea ceremony. These items play a huge role in ensuring that the host places a perfect measure of the powder into the preparation vessel. Consequently, they help in achieving the desired taste of the final drink.
Two types of Japanese tea scoops are common for tea ceremonies. You can use either ivory or bamboo Chashaku. Otherwise, the casual type of bamboo scoop featuring a narrow shape with noddle at the near centre is the most preferred.
An ideal bamboo Chashaku is 18 cm in length with a 48 degrees curve at the base. For an efficient Matcha scooping, the head should be flatter and wider than the rest of its body. Otherwise, when choosing one for your occasion, you only need to consider the size factor.
Furo is the Japanese word for a portable brazier. This tool is used to heat hot water in a kettle (Japanese, Kama) at the start of tea preparation. Braziers come in two types of materials; metal or ceramics. However, there exist wooden Furos that are not so common among brewers.
5. Tea trays
Tea trays play significant roles in carrying cups and other accessories during the Japanese tea ceremonies. Here, trays are categorised according to their shapes and materiality. Some of the most common forms of trays in the land include:
This tea tray is round in shape and features a lacquered surface. It is mainly used to carry Chawan and tea containers.
This tray is also round shaped but with a very wavy lip. It is used only on special occasions to hold tea bowls and containers.
Yoho-bon is a square tray used mainly to serve dry sweets during the Japanese tea ceremony.
Chakin tops the list of the most important clothing items when it comes to Japanese tea ceremonies. Chakin is a Japanese name for a special towel used to wipe a tea bowl when preparing the tea. It is hygienic ware for the occasion. Most Chakins feature rectangular shapes, white colours and linen or hemp materiality.
In Japan, the use of Chakin is attributed to some kinds of ritualism. Whenever you wipe the stray tea off your Chawan using this piece of clothing, you enhance the achievement of wabi and sabi.
Fukusa is a square-shaped silken cloth used to ritually cleansing either Natsume or Chashaku. Additionally, this piece of cloth can be used to hold hot Kama lid. Fukusas comes in two types, Dashibukusa and Kobukusa.
Dashibukusa is a double layer patterned form of Fukusa. It features a square surfacing of approximately 30 cm in length. One edge of Dashibukusa is usually folded while the remaining three sewn together with invisible stitches. However, unlike other types of utensils, the guests usually come with their Dashibukusas. They then keep the pieces of clothing in the breasts of Kimono mainly to protect the tea implements.
Kobukusa measures approximately 15.5 cm or 6 inches in length. This type of Fukusa features a brocaded and patterned material that is both thick and richer than Dashibukusa. In any Japanese tea ceremony, both the guest and host must carry Kobukusa. Usually, they keep them in the breast of kimono. And, to protect the tea implements.
Fukubusami refers to a rectangular wallet shaped like the traditional envelope. It comes with a flap to enclose the wallet. Unlike other types of cloth wares for Japanese tea ceremony, Fukubusamis are mainly for carrying personal items used during the ceremony e.g. Kaishi, fan, Fukuisa and Kobukusa. Usually, the clothing comes in two sizes, small for women and larger ones for men. Otherwise, men’s Fukubusamis come in a less ornate and brighter shade than the women’s.
Shifuku refers to silken bags used to store Chaire and other teawares. Traditionally crafted Shifukus are made with silk and patterned or brocaded.
Ro is the Japanese word for a sunken hearth used mainly during cold weather or winter seasons. Usually, the pit is strategically built on a tatami floor. To heat the water kettle (kama) all you need is to insert it inside the inbuilt fire pit and light it up.
Ro is surrounded with a removable frame called Robuchi, made mainly of a lacquered wood. Once the Robuchi is removed, you can insert you Kama, cover it with a tatami mat and reinstall your frame for faster heating.
Okiro is the portable version of the Japanese hearth. It is mainly used in places where there is no space for the construction of the Ro or in floors with no preinstalled in-built sunken hearth.
Other than the Chawan, pots play a vital role in making everything success during the Japanese tea ceremony. Two authentic pots are so common to most ceremonies.
Kama, also called Chanoyugama, refers to the iron pot or kettle that is used to boil the water at the start of tea preparation. Japanese pots for tea ceremonies are made with mainly copper and iron.
These pots come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Most Kamas feature rounded bodies with squarish or sloppy shoulders. However, there are wide options when it comes to the shape of their mouths. Some have mouths that are turned inwards, outwards or with notched, narrow or wide shape.
One thing that is common among the varied brands of Kamas is the lid at the top of their bodies. Usually, the lid is installed when designing the body to balance its bottom part and size of the lid. Most lids feature bronze, copper, brass, silver and ancient bronze mirror. Brewers uses lids to prevent heat loss for faster heat-up of water. The lid also helps in preventing dirt from entering the heating water.
The older a Kama, the more special it becomes. Japanese use pots passed through generations only on special occasions and not regularly. Some traditional pots feature a variety of shapes such as ogre face, distant mountains, bamboo shoots, pinecones and more.
Other than the Chawan, typical Japanese ceremonies use another bowl called Kensui. This bowl is mainly for emptying wastewater, either hot or cold, produced when rinsing utensils such as the Chawan.
Kensui comes in a wide range of options depending on materiality. Popular variants are made with metal, clay or plain. Some bowls are designed from thin woods usually bent into cylindrical shapes. For an elegant look, the bowls are usually lacquered. This also ensures easy cleaning since both outside and inside of Kensuis come out as smooth as possible.
According to the strict formalities of Japanese tea ceremony, guests are not permitted to dispose of these bowls. Such an act is considered unclean. Also, you cannot reuse wastewaters generated in front of your guests. Otherwise, you will be considered discourteous.
Natsume refers to a high-profile Japanese tea caddy. It derives its name from a Natsume fruit, also called Jujube. In Japan, you can use either Natsume or Chaire during a tea ceremony. Natsume is exclusively for thin tea powder. On the other end, Chaire is used for thick tea.
Natsumes feature different materiality. Common models are made with artificial wood or natural wood and even plastics. Oftentimes, the bodies of these accessories are lacquered to make them beautiful and more fashionable. Most of these tea accessories are used as a show-off during the celebrations to beautify the venue and occasion at large.
Mizusashi refers to the water container used to store cold water used by mainly guest in Japanese tea ceremonies. The container comes with a lidded top to prevent impurities and dirt from landing into the water.
Most of these water containers are made with ceramics. However, some water containers are made of wooden or even glass. Ceramic containers also come with lids made with ceramics. In Japan, the lid is called Tomobuta and are custom-made; and lacquered for excellent aesthetic appearance.
Other than their materiality, Mizusashis are categorized based on their sizes, place of make, shape and other general characteristics. Even with the variety of options, their functionality relates to one thing—carrying cold water used to replenish the hot water in Karma.
Mizutsugi refers to a water pourer used to refill Mizushazi. They come with metallic, ceramic and bentwood materiality. Japanese uses two main kinds of Mizutsugi; Yakan and Katakuchi. Yakan is entirely made of metal. On the other hand, Katakuchi is made of ceramic, bentwood or lacquered wood. They come in cylindrical shapes, with spout, matching lid and handle for easy usability and to achieve dire efficiency.
Many accessories play a huge role to make Japanese tea ceremony success. The antiques, also called Dogu can be subdivided based on their functionalities. Otherwise, there are miscellaneous accessories whose significance is negligible and not necessary for a memorable experience.
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