The samurai, sworn protectors of their retaining lords, developed a green tea ceremony meant to bring peace and harmony to their often-violent lives. Rooted in Zen Buddhism’s focus on humility, simplicity and natural beauty, the tea ceremony became one of the most important rituals in Japan. Due to its significance, only the finest of green tea was used for these ceremonies— Matcha!
Matcha Green Tea (MatchaGT) Matcha
Experience a Green Tea Ceremony
In Northern California the famous Hakone Gardens offers a monthly tea ceremony.
Hakone Gardens is the oldest Japanese and Asian estate gardens in the Western Hemisphere, established in 1915. It is one of the prime land marks by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is an authentic replica of Japanese Samurai or Shogun’s estate garden, designed by one of descendent of the imperial gardening family members.
Hakone Gardens, 21000 Big Basin Way, Saratoga; 408-741-4994. There is a $5 admission fee. Attending the once-a-month tea ceremony is an additional $5. Tea ceremonies happen every third Sunday of the month at noon, 1 and 2 p.m. No dogs.
- 4 scoops MatchaGT
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups 2% milk
- 2 egg yolk, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon butter
In a small saucepan, combine the MatchaGT, cornstarch and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat.
Stir a small amount of hot filling into egg yolk; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat. Gently stir in butter.
Cool for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to dessert dishes. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
This powdered green tea was first used in religious rituals in Buddhist monasteries. By the 13th century, when theKamakura Shogunate ruled the nation and the samurai warrior class ruled supreme, tea and the luxuries associated with it became a kind of status symbol among the warrior class, and there arose tea-tasting (闘茶 tōcha) parties wherein contestants could win extravagant prizes for guessing the best quality tea—that grown in Kyoto, deriving from the seeds that Eisai brought from China.
The next major period in Japanese history was the Muromachi Period, pointing to the rise of Kitayama Culture (北山文化 Kitayama bunka), centered around the elegant cultural world of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and his villa in the northern hills of Kyoto, and later during this period, the rise of Higashiyama Culture, centered around the cultural world of Ashikaga Yoshimasa and his retirement villa in the eastern hills of Kyoto. This period saw the budding of what is generally regarded as Japanese traditional culture as we know it today.
Tea ceremony developed as a “transformative practice”, and began to evolve its own aesthetic, in particular that ofwabi. Wabi, meaning quiet or sober refinement, or subdued taste, “is characterized by humility, restraint, simplicity, naturalism, profundity, imperfection, and asymmetry [emphasizing] simple, unadorned objects and architectural space, and [celebrating] the mellow beauty that time and care impart to materials.” Murata Jukō is known in chanoyu history as the early developer of this, and therefore is generally counted as the founder of the Japanese “way of tea”. He studied Zen under the monk Ikkyū, who revitalized Zen in the 15th century, and this is considered to have influenced his concept of chanoyu.
By the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan. Sen no Rikyu, perhaps the most well-known—and still revered—historical figure in tea ceremony, followed his master, Takeno Jōō‘s, concept of ichi-go ichi-e, a philosophy that each meeting should be treasured, for it can never be reproduced. His teachings perfected many newly developed forms in Japanese architecture and gardens, fine and applied arts, and the full development of chadō, “the “way of tea”. The principles he set forward—harmony (和 wa), respect (敬 kei), purity (清 sei), and tranquility (寂 jaku)—are still central to tea ceremony.
Many schools of Japanese tea ceremony have evolved through the long history of chadō and are active today.