The Japanese tea culture has its origins in China. Buddhist monks travelled from China to visit Zen priests in Japan twice, bringing with them tea and tea culture. The first time was in the 7th Century and the second time in the 15th Century.
One particular Japanese Buddhist monk, Eisai, travelled and studied in China and brought back tea seeds and Chinese tea etiquette. Originally to aid in the formal practice of meditation, Eisai introduced the art and science of powdered tea to his fellow monks. He wrote the oldest known tea specialty book, Kissa Yojoki (The Book of Tea) outlining his beliefs in the benefits of tea to both physical and spiritual health.
It was Sen Rikyu, in the 16th Century, who formalized the Japanese art of tea that we still enjoy today. His belief in equality of all led to the design of tea huts requiring everyone who enters to stoop.
The Japanese Tea Ceremony itself takes years of practice, with charm, grace, and politeness being of utmost importance. There are 2 prevailing philosophies associated with the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
Ichigo Ichie is translated as “once, a meeting” and refers to the fact that in life each unique encounter can never be repeated exactly. As such, each moment should be enjoyed before it is gone.
Wabi denotes simplicity and quietude, and represents finding beauty in things that are imperfect and appreciating nature.