To celebrate the launch of our Morihata Organic Matcha Collection, we are highlighting a different application for each of our three unique ceremonial grades. In this special one-month series, we share some musings on matcha, and ideas for new ways to enjoy your favorite ceremonial powders.
Routines are important. Humans, as creatures of habit, benefit greatly from lists, processes, and rituals. More and more in our modern lives, autonomy and freedom of choice cloud our focus and pull our attention away from tasks that strengthen us mentally and spiritually. Science suggests that there are many benefits to keeping a routine, but between early morning inconveniences and late night obligations, routines are often easier said than done.
Despite its ceremonial origins, preparing the perfect bowl of matcha is an introspective task that can be enjoyed daily to center the mind and reveal the beauty in the everyday.
The History and Philosophy of the Tea Ceremony
The roots of tea and matcha in Japan have their origins in the rich tea culture of China, where it had been enjoyed for hundreds of years before being introduced to Japan in the 9th century. What we now call matcha evolved over many years, first for medicinal purposes and later for pleasure, by Buddhist monks who found that this powdered tea had the ability to keep them alert for their lengthy meditation sessions. However, it wasn’t until the Kamakura and Muromachi periods (12th - 15th century) that the warrior shogunate began to establish the uniquely Japanese art of tea.
Chanoyu (meaning simply “hot water for tea”), is the Japanese word for the tea ceremony. It is a choreographed art form that takes years of practice and dedication to master, but there is much more to this ritual than a sequence of steps. Murata Juko, the man credited with founding the tea ceremony, outlined many of the key philosophies of the tea ceremony in his “Letter of the Heart”, which in keeping with zen practices stated that every act of daily life has the potential to lead to enlightenment.
Another important philosophy that originated from the tea ceremony, is that of Wabi-Sabi. In its early days, matcha was enjoyed in elaborately designed and masterfully built bowls that drew their aesthetic inspiration from Chinese traditions. However, as the tea ceremony slowly evolved into a transformative practice, aesthetic ideals changed as well. An appreciation of quiet refinement, subdued styling, and acceptance of imperfection made the admiration of the tools of the tea ceremony a central component in the experience.
Crafting your own Ritual
Matcha is an accessible drink that can be quickly made and easily enjoyed, but we believe when you craft your own ritual, you can create your own transformative moments. Over the years, numerous tea schools have established their own takes on the tea ceremony. Below, we pull from their traditions and outline a new way to bring matcha into your life.
Get comfortable and freshen up - In a traditional tea ceremony, participants don fresh tabi socks and purify their hands and mouths with water before greeting the host. Your favorite bathrobe and a glass of water make great modern alternatives.
Set the mood - A tokonoma is typically prepared long before the tea ceremony, and often features a scroll or floral arrangement that highlight the beauty of the season and the theme of the gathering. Consider taking a moment to admire your home decorating tastes and the changing of the seasons outside your kitchen window.
Gather your materials - Assemble the tools of the ritual. If you own multiple tea bowls, select the one that best suits your mood. Thoroughly clean each piece so they are ready to perform their intended duties. You will need a matcha bowl, bamboo scoop, bamboo whisk, and a strainer.
Prepare the water - Filtered water is best. The quality of the tea is largely dependent on the quality of the water. Allow the water to come to a boil as you prepare the other tools.
Ladle and sift the matcha - Open your matcha tin and take a moment to appreciate the smell and color of your ceremonial powder. Slowly ladle the matcha into your strainer with the whisk (about 1 heaping tsp. Or two ladlefuls) and use the underside of the ladle to push it through the strainer to remove any clumps.
Pour the water - Allow the water to come off a boil for about 30 seconds to allow it to cool to roughly 70℃. Slowly pour about 50 mL over the matcha.
Whisk - Whisk vigorously in an 'M' shape to create a beautiful crema on top of the matcha. Slowly graze the top of the tea with the tip of the whisk before removing it in order to remove any large bubbles.
Enjoy - Sip slowly and enjoy the subtly briny smell and robust vegetal flavor of your tea. Appreciate the artistry of your tea bowl and stow away your tools for your next mini ceremony!
For the next post in this series, we will make a delicious matcha affogato together.