Enjoying a tea ceremony is a must for many visitors to Japan, not just tea lovers, as there is much more to tea in Japan than enjoying a cuppa! The tea ceremony itself is a ritual in which the drink is prepared and served, following a strict protocol learnt by tea masters over several years. At the heart of the ceremony is the matcha, a powdered tea mixture, that dates back to the Buddhist monks of the 9th Century and has played a central role in Japanese culture ever since.
The best way to immerse yourself in the tea culture of Japan is part-taking in a tea ceremony experience. These often provide insight into the history and role of tea in Japanese society as well as guiding guests through the complete tea ritual. Here are five of the best tea ceremony experiences.
FROM: £23/per person
This 45-hour tea ceremony experience is a great choice for those who are interested in learning about traditional Japanese culture, as it guides guests through the full thin tea ceremony. Join your guide and fellow guests on the tatami, the traditional Japanese floor mat, and learn everything there is to know: from tea preparation to the history of the tradition, and the flavour and tasting of two Matcha teas served with traditional Japanese sweets. Leading the session is a licensed master tea who trained at Urasenke, the biggest tea ceremony school in Japan. The experience ends with an insight into the traditional kimonos and beautiful woven textiles made in Kyoto’s Nishijin district.
From £88/ per person
Explore the stunning natural beauty of the outskirts of ancient Kyoto, taking in the Hozu river, and its surrounding luscious mountains and bamboo groves, filled with birds, traditional shrines and architecture. Over three and a half hours, this tour showcases the spiritual and cultural side of Japan, where guests will learn about Buddhist culture through Zen meditation with a Buddhist monk and a traditional matcha green tea ceremony.
From £22/ per person
Against the backdrop of the beautiful Jotokuji temple, take your first steps into the world of tea within Japan. This 70-minute session takes place throughout the day, so you can select the slot which suits you best. The Tea Master guides the group through the tea ritual, showing and explaining every step of the ceremony, as guested explore the fine art of drinking matcha tea and learn about its importance in Japanese culture.
This popular activity welcomes small groups of nine participants to ensure a personal and engaging experience that is great value for money.
From £90/ per person
This hybrid experience combines an authentic Japanese meal with a tea ceremony in a traditional Japanese house. This experience aims to be both accessible and authentic to those with no experience or knowledge of tea ceremonies, taking guests through all aspects of the ritual. This activity appeals to both tourists and local beginners, as locals rarely go to a very traditional tea ceremony without previous exposure to practises, so this ceremony helps everyone take that first step on their tea journey.
From £34/ per person
Frequently recommended highly by previous guests, this tea ceremony takes place in a typical Japanese wooden house – the machiya. Over an hour, guests will be guided through the methodical steps of the tea ritual, all in Japanese for that extra authenticity, but of course, translated. You’ll learn everything there is to know, from the correct sitting posture to the preparation of the tea from matcha. When the tea is ready you’ll begin the tasting by searching for delicate nuances of flavour and sampling a sweet snack that accompanies the tea.