The Japanese tea ceremony is an elaborate and beautiful process that can be traced as early as the 12th century. It was heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism. This ceremony shows hospitality and goodwill to a guest. Matcha, rather than whole leaf teas, tended to be used in Japan at this time, because of difficulties involved with shipping and storing loose-leaf teas. Tea would instead be compressed into “cakes” and “bricks”, and pieces would be broken or ground off of these cakes and bricks in order to be brewed.
The tea ceremony will always involve the use of a small bamboo spoon, called a chashuka, a bamboo whisk, called a chasen, and a simple ceramic bowl, called a chawan. Loose matcha should be sifted before use. A little hot water should be added to the bowl before it is used, to warm it, and should then be poured out. The sifted matcha should then be scooped into the bowl using the chashuka, at a ratio of about half a teaspoon per 8 oz of water you intend to use. Then, you should pour in your water, which should be between 165 and 180 degrees. You can begin whisking the mixture with the chasen. When the matcha is frothy and a consistent shade of green, it is ready. Traditionally, the bowl should then be presented to a guest who should hold it with two hands, and who should drink it with small, quick sips until it is empty. The chasen is then traditionally thrown out after it’s first use.