The holidays are just around the corner and many of us are already planning meals and family get-togethers. Holidays are filled with many wonderful ceremonies and rituals, some unique to an individual or a family, others unique to a particular culture.
What would Thanksgiving be without the turkey, Christmas without a tree, or Hanukkah without a menorah?
Just like these traditions are kept alive and passed on from generation to generation, tea has a long history as well; and in many countries it makes up an important part of the culture. Asian tea ceremonies, for example, emphasize the use of all five senses conveying the message that the experience of taking tea is meant to be a journey rather than a destination.
This summer, my husband and went on a vacation to China and Japan where we not only explored the many historic places and sights and the great food,we also had the opportunity to spent time at the famous tea village Long Jing (Dragonwell) in Western China and learned all about the Matcha production in Nishio, Japan, where we were invited by one of our suppliers to tour their tea plantation and production facility. Aside from breathtakingly beautiful views, we were reminded of tea’s long history and its important role in celebrations and hospitality.
In China, where tea was first discovered about 5000 years ago, it became so popular that traditions surrounding the preparation developed and special teapots and cups were created to drink tea. The most well known ceremony is the “Gong Fu” ceremony. Gong Fu means skill derived through practice and experience. Using special tea pots and tiny cups, this ceremony focuses on the quality of the tea itself and only the best is offered to an honored guest. We were served Gong Fu tea on several occasions and enjoyed the attention to detail in both, preparation and serving of the tea.
In Japan, we learned the art of making Matcha, the finely ground tea powder that is used in the Japanese tea ceremony, chanoyu. This very artistic and detailed ceremony was developed under the influence of Zen Buddhism and has its focus on the appreciation of simplicity, beauty and harmony – to which tea is merely the vehicle.
Quality is of importance and shows in the intricate and meticulous harvest and production method of Matcha green tea. The tea plants are grown in gradually reduced sunlight over the period of one month. Only the new leaves are picked and depriving the tea plant of sunlight makes these leaves thinner, more tender and produces a fresher, deep green color cup.
While the preparation and serving of tea may vary by culture, the essence, or meaning behind each ceremony is the same. Chado, the way of tea, is about appreciating the simple things in life, about taking time to focus on present moment and about spending time with friends.
We hope you take time during this busy holiday season and create your own tea ceremony – enjoy a cup of Souvia tea alone in reflection, or in the company of friends and loved ones.