How to Have A Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony

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How to Have A Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony

Just like cherry blossoms, samurais, and kimonos the tea ceremony is a tradition embedded in Japanese culture. Also known as “chanoyu”, this formal gathering has a number of guidelines and etiquette. If you want to host one, here’s how.

What You’ll Need:

  • Tatami-floored room and mizuya space or a chashitsu (a larger venue, for chaji gatherings)
  • Host
  • Guests (four is the traditional number)
  • Tea things
  • Japanese sweets


  1. Determine if you’re going to have just a chakai (tea meeting) or a chaji (tea function). Chakai is simpler, requiring you to serve only tea and a sweets. Chaji is more formal, where chai-kaiseki (a full-course meal), confections, sake (Japanese wine), thick tea and thin tea are served. This lasts up to four hours and requires a lot of preparation. If you’re just having a chakai, you can skip the meal.
  2. japanese tea ceremony

  3. Set the date and time of the ceremony. Make sure your guests are properly informed. Remind them that since it’s traditional, they must come wearing their kimonos.
  4. A traditional chakai is held in a tatami room, with a raised alcove in front. The room is devoid of decoration, except for a flower arrangement and a scroll hanging in one wall for the guests to admire. The scroll has Japanese calligraphy on it, usually a simple poem.
  5. Some chakai venues have sliding doors only 36 inches high. When entering, each guest must remove his or her shoes, then crouch and bow down to enter. This symbolizes that in tea, everyone is equal. The person that entered last must latch the door.
  6. Have a fire heating in the venue. Put a kettle on it, and boil water.
  7. Before the ceremony starts, strike a gong at least five to seven times. If you’re doing the ceremony at night, ring a bell.
  8. Enter the venue, and greet your waiting guests, as you seat yourself at the table. You can make small talk, keeping the atmosphere pleasant and calm. Serve small Japanese sweets to everyone, placed in a special paper called kaishi, which the guests bring with them, tucked in their kimono.
  9. Excuse yourself and go to the other room to prepare the tea things. When you return, bring the tea bowl (chawan) with the tea cloth (chakin) and tea whisk (chasen) in it. Carry the green tea(matcha), with the tea scoop (chashaku). Put the matcha in a ceramic container (chaire) and covered with a silk pouch.
  10. Arrange these next to the stoneware water jar (mizusashi). Go back to the other room, and get the bamboo ladle (hishaku), the waste water bowl (kensui) and bamboo rest for kettle lid (futaoki). Close the door.
  11. Use a silk cloth (fukusa) to purify the scoop and tea container. Ladle hot water in the tea bowl, then rinse the whisk. Empty the bowl, and wipe using the tea cloth.
  12. Lift the tea container and scoop, then place three tea scoops for every guest in the tea bowl. Ladle hot water into the bowl from your kettle, creating a paste that’s thin. Use the whisk. Add more water to create a thick liquid similar to pea soup. Return unused water into the kettle.
  13. Pass the bowl to a guest who bows when accepting it. He raises the bowl, admiring it and rotating in his hands. He drinks some of the tea and wipes the bowl rim. He gives it to another guest, who also does it. Repeat this until everyone had their turn.
  14. Get the bowl again and rinse, as well as the tea container, tea scoop and whisk. Everyone then talks about the tea things and other important matters.
  15. If the fire is dying, rebuilt it for the thin tea (usa cha). Its the same as the first, except less tea powder is used. Each guest is given a bowl of the frothy usa cha.
  16. Before leaving, the guests state admiration for the scroll and appreciation for the tea. As they leave, watch from the door of the teahouse.

Tea is a worldly, spiritual beverage, and serving it in a special function just like Japanese do makes it more special. Just follow these steps and have a lovely ceremony.