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How To Drink Tea

By Karen Lee

"Tea with us became more than an idealization of the form of drinking; it is a religion of the art of life."

Okakura's The Book of Tea


The Art of Tea became of great importance to Zen Buddhist meditation. Zen essentially means "meditation" or "conception." Zen had been introduced to Japan several times, but had not lasted; however, the pioneers of this style of teachings were Eisai (1141-1215) and Dogen (1200-1253).

Thus, the tea ceremony came to be not only a social attraction but a ritual as well. This page will discuss the history of tea, the tools and supplies used in ceremonies, the tea house, and the Tea Ceremony itself.

How to Drink Tea

The tea bowl can either be placed in front of the guest or may be placed in the room where the tea was prepared. If the room is small, the guest should not stand up but advance on his knees toward the host. He should also remember the original place where the bowl was stored, so as to return it to its proper place after drinking the tea.

Place the tea bowl outside the border of the tatami you are sitting on. If there is a guest who has been served before you, it is polite to say, "O shoban sasete itadaki masu," or "Please let me accompany you", And to the guest who has not yet been served, you should excuse yourself for drinking first.

You then turn to the host and address him with the words, "O temae o chodai itashimasu,", or "I'll partake of your tea."

Pick up the bowl with your right hand and place it on the palm of your left hand. Put the fingers and our right hand around it, with the thumb facing you, and make a small bow for politeness.

With the bowl still resting on the palm of your left hand, grasp the rim of the bowl with your forefinger and thumb and turn it about ninety degrees clockwise. Take a sip and then comment on how good it tastes, while dropping your right hand on the tatami before your knees.

Drink the remaining tea in small sips and when you come to the last sip, inhale deeply, making an audible sound and finish the tea.

After drinking, the rim of the bowl should be wiped lightly with tissue paper from left to right, as you hold the bowl between forefinger and thumb.

With the bowl still resting on your left palm, turn it counter-clockwise so that it returns to its original position before you drank from it. This is done with the thumb at the edge of the bowl and the other four fingers underneath it.

Place the bowl on the outside of the tatami border and, with your hands on the mat, gaze at the bowl to appreciate its shape. The bowl can be picked up with both hands to view it more closely.

Pick up the bowl and return it to the original position or to the host. The bowl should be turned twice in a 180 degree revolution so that the front of the bowl faces the host when you return it to him/her.

Adapted from:


Read about the:

This art and essence of Japanese tea

History, benefits and ingredients

Equipment for Japanese tea ceremony

The founder of the
Japanese tea ceremony


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