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 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 dining 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 forget 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 to be 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.
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.
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 though if small mistakes do 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. Now onto the recipe!
I loved this recipe for its simplicity and it reminds me of my first tea ceremony experience. This recipe is from Kimiko’s book The chopstick diet (though, I’m not a fan of the word “diet” anywayyyy). I experimented by using a small amount of rosewater. The rosewater brings an exotic floral scent and florid taste which compliments the matcha making it a light treat to enjoy. I often hear from a lot of people that matcha tastes extremely bitter. It’s important to notice that there are two different types of matcha. Cooking grade matcha which is used for cooking, making lattes or smoothies and ceremonial grade which is specifically used for tea ceremonies and if you want to drink matcha with no added ingredients (which I will talk about in the next post).
Rosewater creme green tea
- 2 teaspoons of toasted sesame seeds
- 1.5 – 2.0 teaspoons of matcha ( green tea powder)
- 1 teaspoon of rosewater
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar 300ml soy milk
- 1/2 agar agar (or powdered form)
- Step 1 Put the sesame seeds in a mortar and grind with the pestle until smooth. Add the matcha and brown sugar and continue to grind until the mixture becomes uniform and smooth.
- Step 2 Dissolve the agar in a little bowl with a tablespoon of soymilk. In a heatproof bowl, mix the rest of the soy milk with the tea mixture and add the agar-agar. Cover the bowl with a piece of clingfilm and microwave on medium for 90 seconds stirring a couple of times.
- Step 3 Remove the clingfilm and pour in into two serving glasses. Let them cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. Place a raspberry in the centre of each glass and serve (for three servings, multiply quantities by a third.)