As the seasonal autumn weather is ushered in by the changes in temperature and falling leaves, we welcome with renewed vigor the opportunity to enjoy the season with others and the age old practice of sharing a cup of tea. Many cultures throughout the world celebrate life by sharing tea. Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, are three countries which have many similarities with regards to their tea drinking habits. Regarded as indispensable for welcoming visitors, tea is served as an essential gesture of welcome.
Japanese traditionally celebrate with an elaborate ritualized ceremony that elevate the tea, the server, and the recipient to heights of well considered grace and elegance. The Cha-no-yu or Japanese tea ceremony has fundamentals that lie in the humility of the guests appreciation of the moment’s uniqueness in terms of time and place, also the appreciation of the art and simplicity of balance and form in the movement and objects.
Consider this humorous and cleaver bit from The Urban Shaman’ from C.E. Murphy – “In Ireland, you go to someone’s house, and she asks you if you want a cup of tea. You say no, thank you, you’re really just fine. She asks if you’re sure. You say of course you’re sure, really, you don’t need a thing. Except they pronounce it ting. You don’t need a ting. Well, she says then, I was going to get myself some anyway, so it would be no trouble. Ah, you say, well, if you were going to get yourself some, I wouldn’t mind a spot of tea, at that, so long as it’s no trouble and I can give you a hand in the kitchen. Then you go through the whole thing all over again until you both end up in the kitchen drinking tea and chatting. In America, someone asks you if you want a cup of tea, you say no, and then you don’t get any damned tea. I liked the Irish way better.”
Our own participation is critical to the alchemy and magic which is tea ceremony, however simple or elaborate. The magic happens when the participants are receptive to the tea with even a little bit of humility and gratitude.
Consider this lesson in tea etiquette – a tea grower once invited Sen no Rikyu, the founder of the Japanese Way of Tea, to have tea. He was overjoyed at Rikyu’s acceptance, and when Rikyu came for tea, the grower led him into the tea room and served Rikyu the tea himself. However, in his excitement, his hand trembled, he dropped the tea scoop, and he knocked the tea whisk over. The other guests and students of Rikyu snickered at the tea grower’s performance, but Rikyu said, “It was the finest.” On the way home, one of the students asked Rikyu, “why were you so impressed by such a shameful performance?” Rikyu replied, “This man did not invite me with the idea of showing off his skill. He simply wanted to serve me tea with his whole heart. He devoted himself to completely making a bowl of tea for me, not worrying about errors. I was struck by that sincerity.”
Sen Rikyu, Master and Founder of the Way of Tea, immediately showed his appreciation not just for the tea, but the manner in which it was offered, with love and humility. Tea it seems has been the age old excuse to share with our fellow man a moment of love, friendship and to make a peaceful welcoming gesture. Serving tea opens the door for participation and reception of good will. Whatever your tea occasion this season, I hope you enjoy it with welcome, friendship, and a pinch of humility allowing for an appreciation of this moments gesture of goodwill.
In welcome – Da Cha Teas