When in Kyoto, Japan
The cultural capital of Japan, Kyoto is one of the country’s biggest tourist destinations. It’s home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites—many of them Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines—palaces, castles, geishas, and the picturesque Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.
It can be an exhausting visit trying to take it all in, so be sure to schedule in some time to unwind and connect with Japan’s spiritual heart via its sacred matcha green tea.
~Watch Big & Small Travel in Kyoto!~
The Art of Matcha
Tea ceremonies follow a set of rituals that have roots in Zen Buddhism. In Japan, they transformed into a reverential tradition that draws on four essential qualities: harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility.
Matcha green tea, a finely ground powder made of pure green tea leaves, is exclusive to Japan. Because you consume the whole leaves (as opposed to just steeping them), matcha is something of an antioxidant powerhouse. We could go on and on about the amazing health benefits linked to matcha, but the Japanese dig deeper into its magic and mysticism by turning its delicate and diligent preparation into a silent, serene art form.
Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony
When arriving to a Japanese tea ceremony, you’ll be welcomed into a minimalist tea room lined in tatami floor mats. While each tea ceremony varies, all will require you to remove your footwear and sit seiza-style (in a kneeling position).
In a series of slow, elegant, and precise movements, the host will ritually cleanse the chawan (a bowl for preparing and drinking tea), whisk, and tea scoop. Matcha green tea powder is then scooped into the chawan, covered in hot water, and vigorously—yet carefully—whisked into a frothy, forest-green brew. Now it’s time to let the guests sip and savor this life-giving delicacy.
In December 2016, we experienced an authentic Kyoto tea ceremony at Camellia Garden Teahouse, and it was one of our favorite moments in Japan. There are plenty of teahouses around the city that offer traditional tea ceremonies. They’ll charge more if you want to don the classic kimono as well, but the experience is more about the host than your garb. They’ll teach you the moves, the way of the whisk, and the etiquette and symbolism behind the ceremony.
Harmony & Respect Beyond the Teahouse
While matcha green tea powder can be found all over Japan (in its sweets, breads, chocolates, ice creams, noodles, mochi, you name it), enjoying it in its purest form is the most rewarding experience—alongside making friends with the locals, of course. When you visit Japan, you’ll find the qualities of harmony and respect extend well beyond the tearoom. Expect not only exceptional matcha, but world-class hospitality.