Tea Etiquette

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Tea Etiquette in the Orient is considerably different to Tea Etiquette in the Occident (see my last blog).  

Time honoured rituals abound when drinking tea in in Japan, China, Tibet and most other parts of Asia. Rituals as steeped in Zen, art and appreciation, as they are in Tea.

Japan ~ Chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony, is the intricate Zen practice of making, serving and drinking tea. Everything about the tea is savoured ~ the colour, fragrance, sound of the tea being poured, warmth of the cup in your hands, of course the delicious taste of fine green tea, and also a sense of deep gratitude for the moment. Every movement and gesture are artistically performed, with the host and guests at one with each other, the tea, and the world.

China ~ In China the host introduces the tea to guests, explaining the nature of the specific tea and allowing each guest to smell the tea. The teapot and cups are warmed with the boiled water before the tea is made. Brewing time is short as a small teapot is usually used. The tea is poured and offered with both hands by the host to the guest, who in turn accepts the cup with both hands. The tea fragrance is always appreciated first, and then the tea is tasted. Four to seven brews are made from each pot, each for a slightly different brewing time, so that the depth and nuance of the tea can be fully enjoyed.

tea etiquette

Tibet ~ In homes in Tibet, the serving of tea is performed by age; that is, the elders and then parents are always served first. Cups are washed in front of distinguished guests to show cleanliness. When the tea is poured it is always offered with two hands. The tea bowl is refilled after the first sip, and the guest uses their hand to cover the cup when they do not wish any more tea. In the monasteries of Tibet, the monks sit in order of position and are served in that manner (with the highest level monk always served first). The tea is drunk in silence and virtual stillness.

Throughout Asia ~ Tea is the common drink throughout Asia, served in small cups similar to bowls. The server usually only fills the cup to three quarters full, which is considered a compliment as it allows the host to keep pouring tea, thus keeping the tea warm. If the tea is served too hot, it is considered poor manners to blow on it, whereas swirling the tea gently to cool is considered good manners. Tea is seen as a way to promote mutual understanding, conversation, and also meditation, and can be enjoyed as formally or informally as the host and guest wish.

tea etiquette

Tea Etiquette is different all over the world, not just culturally, but also individually. So when you serve tea, make sure your Tea Etiquette has ‘you’ stamped on it.

I know for me, Tea Etiquette really comes down to gratitude. Gratitude for this moment, the pause in a hectic day, sustenance, a chance to delight each sense, and the magick in every sip. I love to brew each pot, serve each guest and pour for myself with that gratitude at the forefront. May your tea making and magick serve you well. ~ GreenWitch Tea

(1) Sweets served with Japanese tea (2) Sweets served with Chinese tea (3) Sweet tea in Tibet (4) GreenWitch Tea

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