The way of tea

tea

Photo by Shin Jae Park/The Origami

(I wrote this article about experiencing a Japanese tea ceremony in Toronto for The Origami.)

We were easily the houseguests from hell…

On a particularly sweltering day in July, we arrive, all hot and sweaty, a quarter-hour before the designated time for chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony of preparing and drinking hot matcha (powdered green tea).

Nonetheless, our tea ceremony teacher, Teruko Shin, graciously invites us into her three-level home in North York, where tatami (mats made from rice straw) on the floor offer us instant relief from the oppressive heat outside.

Honouring the custom in Japan (and in Canada), we remove our shoes upon entering and we follow Teruko-san to the mezzanine that looks out onto a well-tended Japanese garden. She invites us to sit with her on the floor,seiza style (the traditional way of sitting on one’s lower legs).

Teruko-san hardly looks 85, and she radiates wisdom. She is curious about my interest in chanoyu. I tell her that I want to learn more about what tea represents. I muse about how, in today’s world, tea is considered hip and cool, and people consume it with nary a thought about its history or other aspects. I also want to experience what others have said, that to participate in a tea ceremony is to slow down and step away in time.

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