Tea Pouring Etiquette in Japan

by Rachel Alexander ; Updated September 28, 2017

During the ceremony, water is poured slowly from a small bamboo ladle.

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Chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony, is a ritualized practice in which tea is served, poured and consumed in a particular space following codified procedures that are centuries old. Matcha, the green tea used in the ceremony, is prepared and consumed according to Japanese custom and is considered to be an art worthy of mastery. During the ceremony, everything from pouring tea to interacting with other guests is guided by stringent tearoom etiquette.

Silence and the Sound of Poured Tea

Once guests of the Chanoyu enter the tea room, worldly thoughts and concerns are left behind, as the focus shifts to the tea master and his preparation. The emphasis is on the subtle interactions between the host, the guests and the utensils. The guests are intended to listen to the sounds of the tea being prepared. The host will boil the water in a small iron kettle. It is then ritually poured into each tea bowl from a bamboo ladle and a single scoop of the powdered green matcha is placed into each person's bowl. The guests will then appreciate the warmth of the bowl and the lustrous green color of the tea before taking three small sips.

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About the Author

Rachel Alexander is a cultural and political area specialist of South Asia and the Middle East. She received the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship in 2011, and again in 2012, to live in northern India and study advanced Hindi. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from Loyola University of Chicago.