How to Enjoy Tea

How to Enjoy the Japanese Tea Ceremony -- An Introduction

While your bowl of tea is being made, enjoy the sweets given to you. Finish your sweets before you partake in the drinking of your bowl of green tea.

When the bowl of tea is served, pay attention to where shomen (the front of the bowl) is. The front of the tea bowl is always served facing you.

With respect, bow to the guest preceding you and say, “Oshoban itashimasu," ("May I join you?”). Bow to the guest after you and say, "Osakini," ("Excuse me for going before you”). Then bow to the host and say, “Chôdai itashimasu," ("Thank you for the tea”).

Place the bowl on your left palm and steady it with your right hand. Raise the bowl slightly and give silent thanks to everyone and everything that brought the tea to you.

To avoid drinking from the front of the bowl, turn it clockwise on your left palm so the shomen faces away from you.

With the bowl still on your left palm, steady it with your right hand and sip the green tea. Slurping the tea with the final sip aerates the tea for richer flavor (as in wine tasting) and shows your appreciation to the host.

With your thumb and forefinger wipe the rim of the bowl where you drank, then wipe your fingers on the sweets paper (kaishi), a tissue or handkerchief.

Turn the bowl counterclockwise so the front of the bowl faces you again. Now you can look closely at the bowl and appreciate its craftsmanship.

When you’re done looking at the tea bowl, return it to your host. Turn the bowl clockwise so the front faces the host just before you return it.

Adapted from a handout from Sankei-en, Yokohama, Japan.