Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony in Kyoto, Japan

She moved with reverence and grace while we quietly observed every dance-like move. The entire ritual was performed with precision and intention.

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

We were watching an authentic tea ceremony in a 100 year old traditional Geisha ryokan, and it just so happened to be one of our favorite adventures from our time in Kyoto. Learning about the process and history behind the ceremony provided a look into a unique slice of Japan’s culture in a city where the history dates back thousands of years.

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

The ceremony started with us slipping off our shoes and finding a spot to sit on the floor along the bright blue carpet. We were instructed to settle in and leave all of our worries and troubles behind, while quietness filled the air.

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

Traditionally, tea ceremonies were only for men—women weren’t allowed to join in until 100 years ago. In order to become a tea master, one must go through an intense training that you can only pass once you have perfected each step and movement of the process. Tea ceremonies are a spiritual meditation with a base in Zen philosophy—it is an experience that connects the tea master and their guests with the large world around us. The four fundamental aspects of the tea are harmony, respect, purity and tranquility.

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

After learning about the history of the ceremony and how to properly hold our bowl, we watched as the Matcha green tea was prepared by our tea master. Each tool was cleaned in a precise and exact manner and each movement was performed with grace—it was simply mesmerizing. The first bowl was served to the “guest of honor”, aka, the guest seated directly in front of the tea master.

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

Once the ceremony was complete, it was then our turn to try our hand at making a bowl of tea for ourselves. We scooped some of the tea powder into our bowl before our tea master poured a ladle of water on top. The next step was to whisk the tea in a circular motion with the flick of your wrist until the tea turned into a frothy, bubbly green.

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

With our tea, we were served wagashi, or sweets to enjoy before drinking our tea. The sweets are said to balance out the bitterness of the tea. The first sweet was an almost jelly like treat that was hard on the outside and soft and gummy on the inside, while the other sweet was a sugar flower to commemorate the shop’s one year anniversary. Everything was delicious—I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed Matcha green tea because green tea has never been my favorite drink around.

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

After much deliberation on whether we should check out a tea ceremony, we couldn’t have been happier that we ended up wandering into the Camellia Japanese Tea Ceremony at the last minute. Our tea master, Atsuko Mori, was so sweet–you could just tell how much she loved teaching and sharing the traditions of the tea ceremony, and she enthusiastically answered each and every one of our questions.

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

We didn’t make reservations because we weren’t quite sure how we wanted to spend our day, but you can make reservations in person or by email if you so choose. The ceremonies are 45 minutes long and are offered every hour on the hour between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Prices are 2,000 yen per adult (around $16) and 1,000 yen per child (around $8), and it includes the ceremony, a bowl of tea and a sweet.

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan

We left the ceremony with our worries melted away and a newfound love for Matcha green tea. It was the perfect end to our three days in the historic city of Kyoto.

Have you ever been to a tea ceremony like this?

35 Comments
  • TJ Lubrano
    Twitter:
    Posted at 14:09h, 07 July Reply

    I love, love, loooooove this!! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I look forward to the day that I can witness this for real. Funny note. I illustrated a cardgame, called Matcha and it’s aimed at the Japanese Traditional Tea Ceremony. So excited for the game to be played by people over the world. Thank you so much for this gorgeous post ^_^
    TJ Lubrano recently posted…Pre-Order Matcha – A Cardgame About Geishas and Tea.My Profile

  • Tash
    Twitter:
    Posted at 08:26h, 10 July Reply

    Wow I can’t believe you liked the matcha! I took a tea ceremony class when I studied at Kyushu university, by the end of the year I still hadn’t developed a taste for it :3
    I love the order and delicacy of the tea ceremony, there are so many rules you wouldn’t even notice as an outsider; as a cultural tradition it’s a perfect representation of Japan as a society, something quite unique i think!

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 20:49h, 14 July Reply

      I can see how it’s not a tea for everyone–I was really surprised that I liked it! I can only imagine how many rules there are–such an interesting thing to learn about–that sounds like it was a really interesting class!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony in Kyoto, JapanMy Profile

  • Lesley
    Twitter:
    Posted at 22:40h, 10 July Reply

    I haven’t had this experience yet for myself so thank you for taking me there. It makes it so much better when the teacher is so friendly, right? Beautiful post and photos.

  • Betsy Wuebker
    Twitter:
    Posted at 01:31h, 11 July Reply

    What a lovely experience. I liked how you embraced the historical aspects and allowed yourselves to surrender to the moment. Isn’t it amazing that moments like these were incorporated into daily life? What a serene existence by comparison!
    Betsy Wuebker recently posted…Context Travel Barcelona: Story within HistoryMy Profile

  • Heather Widmer
    Twitter:
    Posted at 02:36h, 11 July Reply

    What a fun and unique cultural experience! I had not idea so much went into making traditional tea. This is an activity I’d love to do if I ever have an opportunity to travel to Kyoto. How did the tea that you prepared turn out compared to the tea master’s tea?

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 20:43h, 14 July Reply

      We didn’t realize how much when into making the tea either! It was a lot of fun! I didn’t get to try the tea that the master made, unfortunately, but I bet it was better than ours 🙂 Our tea was still delicious though!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony in Kyoto, JapanMy Profile

  • Toni
    Twitter:
    Posted at 04:18h, 11 July Reply

    We’ve been to a few tea ceremonies in Japan, I absolutely love matcha! I’ve not been to this one though and I love all your photos which is something we’ve not been able to do, were they OK with you taking them or did you arrange special permission?
    Toni recently posted…The stunning Mt Misen, MiyajimaMy Profile

  • RaW
    Twitter:
    Posted at 08:38h, 11 July Reply

    Beautiful photos of the ceremony! I’d love to visit Japan and experience this myself. I believe this is totally different from Chinese tea ceremony – which I hope to try probably next month.
    RaW recently posted…#BeautifulMalaysia Photo Contest 2015My Profile

  • Cailin
    Twitter:
    Posted at 08:39h, 11 July Reply

    Since I was a little kid I have ALWAYS wanted to visit Japan, this would be such an awesome experience! I also love a good afternoon tea, so this would be cool to enjoy as well and compare the differences between the two, aside from a lot less food that is lol
    Cailin recently posted…Hot Air Ballooning For the First TimeMy Profile

  • Claudia
    Twitter:
    Posted at 12:54h, 11 July Reply

    About a lifetime ago I saw a movie – I think it was Karate Kid 2. The main character (Ralph Maccho) at some point was introduced to a tea cerimony and since then I was really fascinated and interested to try it. I have never been to Japan but I would love to go and this is something I would want to try. It seems like it was worth the money, and you took beautiful pictures too 🙂

  • Jessica
    Twitter:
    Posted at 02:04h, 12 July Reply

    Wow what a great experience that must have been! So interesting!
    Jessica recently posted…14 Reasons to Love Guatemala: Central America’s Best Kept SecretMy Profile

  • Jen Seligmann
    Twitter:
    Posted at 02:53h, 12 July Reply

    Lovely post. So disappointed I missed out on this when I was in Japan. Of course this just gives me yet another excuse to re-visit one of my favourite countries. I find the Japanese ladies to be so sweet and they have a grace about them I haven’t found anywhere else in the world.
    Jen Seligmann recently posted…Driving New Zealand’s Wild West Coast – Things to See & DoMy Profile

  • Stacey jean Inion
    Twitter:
    Posted at 18:08h, 12 July Reply

    YES! We took one of these tea ceremonies in at the foot of beautiful Kakegewa castle with my Japanese cousin and three of our children. One of our most beautiful memories of such a gorgeous country; worth every moment. We did not get many shots of it, unfortunately. Your lovely photos make me want to go back. Thank you very much!

  • Carmen
    Twitter:
    Posted at 19:47h, 13 July Reply

    Japan is on my bucket list. I forwarded your article to my neighbor who is heading to Japan in a few weeks. I hope she gets to experience the tea ceremony when she goes. It looks like a wonderful tradition that has been practiced for so many years. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
    Carmen recently posted…Federica & Co – A Secret Place in the Heart of MadridMy Profile

  • Penny
    Posted at 20:53h, 13 July Reply

    As an avid tea drinker, I think this is something I need to do someday soon!
    Penny recently posted…What to see in VietnamMy Profile

  • Maaike - Travellous World
    Twitter:
    Posted at 03:27h, 16 July Reply

    How special! Absolutely adding this to my bucket list
    Maaike – Travellous World recently posted…Walk the Walk: Den BoschMy Profile

  • Karianne
    Twitter:
    Posted at 16:20h, 01 August Reply

    I am a huge fan of tea and swear by my daily glass of matcha!

    Unfortunately, we never got to experience a tea ceremony in Japan – but it is something we definitely plan to do when we return.

    We did go to a tea ceremony in Thailand last year and it was an amazing experience. Tea masters are such wonderful people who really convey their love and respect for tea and the tea making process. We will let you know if we manage to take part in a tea ceremony in Japan!
    Karianne recently posted…Lifestart Foundation – Helping the Disadvantaged in Hoi An, VietnamMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 01:11h, 06 August Reply

      Going to one in Thailand would be super cool too–hope we can check one out there someday! Totally agree, tea masters are so wonderful!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: Tokyo, JapanMy Profile

  • Jane
    Posted at 23:17h, 21 March Reply

    I love your post! I remember attending a Japanese Ceremony way back 5 years ago where I also firstly tasted matcha. Until I use it for baking as well. It is a great tea that I cannot resist.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 20:39h, 24 March Reply

      Thanks! I agree, it’s so good! That’s interesting to use it in baking–will have to give that a try–sounds delicious!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: ArizonaMy Profile

  • Joanna: Value pricing
    Posted at 23:58h, 18 November Reply

    This looks like a truly great experience. Just seeing the pictures slows me down and I imagine the mindfulness that you would experience.

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