Traditional Culture of Japan - Traditional crafts and culture

The reason why the cup is rotated before drinking the tea


When you are invited to a friend's house and coffee or black tea is served, you just drink it without thinking about it particularly. Even if you add some sweetener or whatever, you don't pay any special attention to as you drink.


But when matcha is served, even Japanese people often become a little anxious and unsure of what to do. In tea ceremony, people drink matcha, but before they drink it, they turn the cup around on the palm of their hand.


Various questions may come to mind, such as “Was it two times that I’m supposed to turn the cup?” “Should I rotate it clockwise?” “Actually, what’s the point of turning the cup around anyway?” Thinking thoughts such as these, the tea may no longer be hot by the time you drink it. So let’s first of all consider why people rotate the tea cup.


  Why do we rotate the tea cup?
It could be said that tea ceremony allows us to experience a space that is out of the ordinary. In former times, all samurais wore a sword on their waist, but they removed their swords before entering a tea-ceremony room. Unarmed as they were, they could enter a space that was quite removed from daily life.


In that sense, it is a testament to the power of matcha to create a different world that when this kind of tea is served, people straighten their posture and, as mentioned above, start to ask themselves questions like “Am I supposed to rotate the cup?”


And yet, all that is required for anyone to enjoy matcha is hot water, matcha powder, and a chasen (a whisk for stirring the powdered tea into the hot water). Any sort of small bowl or cup can be used for making the tea.


The tea bowl is placed before the guest so that the design on its surface can be seen. In other words, it should be placed so that the design is facing the guest. The guest brings the cup to his or her lips, avoiding drinking from the front of the cup where the design is. This is what many people have learned as the reason why the tea cup is rotated.


If you learn the details of the procedures, you will find that these differ according to the school. Therefore, all you really need to keep in mind is that when you are taking part in a tea ceremony, you should avoid drinking from the front of the cup. Rather than focusing on details of procedure, it is more important to enjoy the experience of drinking the tea.


Of course, when drinking tea in a different context, such as a casual visit to a friend’s home, you don’t need to be concerned about this point of etiquette. Just drink your tea as it is served to you.

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