Formal Tea Ceremony Etiquette

Some important things to consider when drinking tea, especially when it is a formal tea ceremony:

1. In a nice tea shop the server will often bow to you after she places your table, and it would be polite for you to do likewise.

2. One holds one’s bowl in two hands, the left supporting the base and the right wrapped around the side.

3. One holds the bowl aloft and admires the flourish painted on the near side of the bowl. If it’s absent, one is expected to imagine it’s there.

4. One should then turn the bowl 180 degrees so that said design focal point (imagined or otherwise) is not near your mouth as you partake.

5. Having slurped the last dregs of powder from the bowl as if sucking up ramen, one may wipe the drinking edge of the bowl, turn it back so that the design is facing you, place it on the table once more, and spend some time appreciating it.

6. The tea itself doesn’t vary much throughout the year, but as in all art it’s the negative spaces which define the piece, so the pottery and cake vary to reflect and amplify the season and change one’s appreciation of the tea. Failure to appreciate the setting, vessel and other details is tantamount to missing the point.

7. The sweet dish/cake which is served first should be finished before the tea is begun. One uses the small, flat-edged stick to slice, spear and eat the cake first, rather than eating it “with” the tea. The qualities of this seasonally specific morsel should then add to the tea in some way.