The leaves were swayed by the winds gentle, along with my skin being soaked up by the suns ray through the window. As we sat around the tatami mats, I was overwhelmed by the silence along with the sweet smell of incense which made its way across the whole room. Some people were dressed in colourful kimonos sitting in a refined and graceful position seiza (星座.) For just a moment, I felt like I was in Japan.
You would think that a Japanese tea ceremony is ALL about the tea right????? However, it goes far beyond just drinking and making tea. As a host, it’s about preparing a bowl of tea from the heart, and A LOT of time is taken into consideration for their guest.
We were presented with sweets before having the tea. The presentation was mind-blowing. While the sweet was small (about the size of two KitKats). Being mindful was a very important aspect and gobbling down the sweet in one bite is probably NOT the best dinning etiquette, especially in an environment that is so graceful and refined. Slowing down to eat the sweets was much more satisfying and it could focus more on the flavour, texture and most importantly appreciate the food that was provided (It took us 8 minutes to finish, not that I’m counting). From that alone, it reminded me about slowing down and enjoying the present. We live in such a busy and demanding environment where we have an endless task of things to do, deadlines, and sometimes, I can forgot to slow down and appreciate the NOW and small aspects of life what can bring us joy and relief. I sat carefully listening to the quiet descriptions of each movement of the tea preparation. “Otemae chodai itashimasu 大手前長大”(Thank you for making the tea) as a hot bowl of matcha green tea was given to me. (I realised, that there is A LOT of bowing and important expression that needs to need said along the way).
Throughout the ceremony, we got the privilege to admire and gaze upon the small details of arts, crafts, ikebana and handcrafted pottery, calligraphy. I was also very blessed to be given the opportunity to ask questions along the process and most communication was discussing about the tea preparation.
Our sensei explained how the Japanese tea ceremony teaches discipline to the modern day Japanese society. It was meant to make you stay focused on your senses, to be in the moments and not be distracted by other thoughts as well as providing an essential connection to the old traditions. I took these beliefs to heart, especially when it comes to being mindful when I eating.
When being exposed to another culture, it can be intimidating, especially as I did not want want to do or say something that might make the person feel offended. However, I learned the phrase (ichigo-icie一期一会 ) meaning that our experience is a once in a lifetime chance and to make the most of that one encounter. It can sort of be translated into YOLO (You Only Live Once ). Learning and embracing the Japanese culture was both scary and exciting and the sensei and other guests really appreciate new guests trying to learn their culture even through if small mistakes did happen. They already understood that it wasn’t intentional. I went home carrying this important lesson and also wanted to create a recipe that reflected my first tea ceremony experience and continue my Japanese studies.
I loved this recipe for its simplicity and it reminds me of my first tea ceremony experience. It was adapted from Kimiko’s book The chopstick diet. Matcha was traditionally prepared either thick (濃茶 koicha) preparation and a thin (薄茶usucha) preparation in tea ceremonies. However, when it is added as an ingredient, the taste of matcha becomes subtler and adds a bright green colour to any food creation. I experimented by using a small amount of rosewater. The rosewater bring an exotic floral scent and florid taste which compliments the matcha making it a light treat to enjoy.
- 2 teaspoons of toasted sesame seeds
- 1.5 – 2.0 teaspoons of match ( green tea powder)
- 1 teaspoon of rosewater
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar 300ml soy milk
- 1/2 agar agar (or powdered form)
1. Put the sesame seeds in a motar and grind with the pestle until smooth. Add the matcha and brown sugar and continue to grind until the micture becomes uniform and smooth.
2. Dissolve the agar agar in a little bowl with a tablespoon of soymilk. In a heatprrof bowl, mix the rest of the soy milk with the tea micture and add the agar agar. Cover the bowl with a piece of clingfilm and microwave on medium for 90 seconds stiring a couple of times.
3. Remove the clingfilm and pour in into two serving glasses. Let them cool to room tempreture and then refrigerate. Place a raspberry in the centre of each glass and serce (for three servings, mutliply quantities by third.)
Kay’s Question: Is there a culture that you would like to learn more of?