To formerly begin the Tea Institutes relationship and discuss our Experiential Learning program in Japan with the Edosenke Chanoyu School based in Tokyo, the Imoto invited us for tea.
(An Imoto is the Grand Master of a school)
The tea house itself was over 150 years old and had survived both the Great Kanto Earthquake and the Allied bombings of WWII.
We progressed through the full ceremony, stopping at a rest area in the garden and being served a small kaiseki of eggplant and (amazing) sake from a silver kettle. I need to get a silver teapot first, but a silver sake pot is next on the list!
The Imoto explained that in many schools, it is now common to simply practice whisking and preparing tea; that many schools have cut out the roji garden, kaiseki and sake before having tea and that has led people to view chanoyu as a solemn ceremony. Its not!
Done properly, all of the guests will converse and chat long before the tea is ever served, and with a little (sometimes a lot) of food and sake, everyone will be relaxed and in the right state of mind to receive tea; no need to force yourself to stay quiet or to censure your thoughts. Done properly, everyone is ready.
But as ready as the Imoto made me, nothing could have prepared me for his tea.
Super rare matcha whisked by a Grand Master?
Unmatched-a`ed. Sorry for the pun….
The Imoto whisked the tea using various techniques in 3 parts: immersion, suspension, and frothing. If you have ever tried to whisk matcha, one of the hardest parts is getting all of the tea under the tiny amount of water in the bowl during the pour. Without ever moving the kettle, he hit every grain.
Suspension was just as impressive; Imoto created a vortex and the tea simply was. Years of muscle memory? Better matcha? perfect use of water and wares? Probably all of that and more.
Finally, to make the froth that rests on the top of the tea, he raised the whisk slightly out of the bowl, and used a slight spinning technique. I`ve never seen anything like it.
At this point you should all be saying “what a wonderful experience Jason, but how does that help anyone else?”. Thankfully I have an answer for all of you (this time); The Edosenke Chanoyu School has formerly accepted a Stratigic Partnership with the Tea Institute at Penn State for the training of our members. Included in this partnership is a new Experiential Learning Program for 4 Institute Members to be held at their headquarters in Tokyo during the month of July.
I`ve only been in Japan for a week and a half, but I have some more big announcements coming soon.