January 2016: New Year Tea Ritual
Have you ever attended Japanese Tea Ceremony New Year Style?
Hatsugama (初釜) means boiling of the first kettle tea ceremony. It is a tradition that passes down from several generations. It has always been an honor to be served by tea teacher. This meeting is seen as something very special. Hatsugama is the only time when my tea teacher himself prepares tea for all his students. This does not happen often in Asian culture because students uphold the teacher highly. However, this year, we, students, were gathering at his place and our most senior students served the tea in his place as our teacher's health was not his best. Most of us were wearing formal Kimono.
In the traditional way, kaiseiki meal would be served. Since we could not complete the ritual with Kaiseiki meal, well, none of us was capable enough to prepare such a formal and beautiful meal. Instead, we came and shared a dish. Everyone placed one’s dish on the table provided in the room.
Fifteen minutes later after everyone was chatting and laughing, we were told to be seated. There are 2 tea sessions, thick tea (or Koi Cha performed by our male student) and thin tea (or Usucha performed by a female student). Our most senior students began to work his and her magic. It was quiet and calm. People were looking at the tea hosts. I have always loved the sound of water whether is boiling or running. It sounds so pretty to me.
Talking about 2 different type of tea being served. Koicha was also prepared and shared among all students. Koicha is a thick tea that looked like a pea soup (really). Each one of us shared the same bowl. Yes, it may sound a bit strange to many people but we are bonded together this way.
Then we also got served a thin tea. This year, I got an honor to help out as the first guest. The first guest is the most important guest. He or she receives the dessert and tea first. He or she can have a conversation with the tea host. It also shows the rank among the guests as well.
Tea of The Month: Haru no Uji Matcha (Translation: Spring of Uji City). It is our new tea. The tea is grown around Uji, the birth place of tea growing region in Japan. Please check it out with this link.
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