Prior to our tea room launch, we would like to introduce you to the mystical and beautiful tradition of tea gathering. Tea gathering consists of multiple components of Japanese culture such as the Zen teachings, flower arrangements, ceramics and painting.The host not only does she have to make good tea but also must be a good curator of art. Therefore it is normal for a host to study "the way of tea" or sado for multiple years before hosting their own tea gathering. Stonemill Matcha's tea gathering is a more casual version but we honor and respect the spirit and the ritual of a traditional tea gathering.
Tea gathering started 550 years ago in Civil War period when the world was in deep chaos. The silent and dimly lit tea room was a place to reflect and escape from the daily life. The component of the rooms such as tatami mats, sand walls, soft natural light which comes through the shoji (paper) windows, was used intentionally so that we feel as close to nature as possible. The zen aesthetics called wabi-sabi puts heavy emphasis on accepting nature as-is. The door to the tea room was intentionally small so that the Samurais had to leave behind the sword to enter the room. Even in a historically hierarchical war period, everybody was considered equal when they entered the tea room, so that people were stripped from all distractions and enjoy the tea gathering with all mind and body.
You might be surprised how the tea is crafted with meticulous care and precision. The host goes through a series of motion that purifies all the utensils, bowl before the actual tea making. The preparation of making a good bowl of tea starts even before that day, when the host sets a theme of the tea gathering, usually inspired by the season, and collects specific utensils and artifacts to use for the day. There are 24 seasons which each has a unique characteristic and rules with details of what can be used during that period. For example, mid September is when we have Chushu-no-meigetsu, the harvest moon. You could find a scroll related to the moon, design of the utensils of early autumn harvests, and so on.
Another unique aspect of Japanese tea gathering is that it is a collaborative effort with the host and the guest. There are rules that the guest must follow, from how to ask questions, how to receive the bowl, and so on. If you are curious, to know more about these rituals, there are other blogs that cover in detail the etiquette of attending a tea gathering.
What is a tea gathering in short? It is a way that the host and guest, in the spirit of omotenashi, work together to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The host, through thoughtful and creative preparations, sets the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime interaction. The guest, through anticipation and careful attention, prepares to receive the efforts of the host with grace and gratitude.