Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Japanese Tea Ceremony

A fascinating and intimate custom, the Japanese tea ceremony is an excellent way to expose your child to Japanese culture. To get started, you’ll need: a whisk, bowl, scoop, teapot and green tea, like bancha, hojicha or sencha. A parent or teacher can act as host for this adaptation of a tea ceremony until the child is familiar with the rituals and can take over the role.

Setting the Mood
Ceremonies are often held in a special tearoom or teahouse. These environments are calming, quiet and formal. That may not sound like your house, but you’ll be surprised by how quickly you can transform the mood. Before entering your “tearoom,” everyone should give a bow, remove their shoes and wash their hands. Ask children to shake out their giggles, close their eyes and turn on their imagination. When their eyes open, they may think they are visiting Japan.

Sit in seiza style (on knees with bottoms touching heels) in a circle formation with the host positioned near the tea equipment.

Preparing the Tea
Using a special cloth, the host starts by cleaning the equipment. Next, he scoops the green-tea powder into the bowl and adds hot water. He whisks it to create a tea with a light foam on the top. Unlike Americans, the Japanese do not add sweetener.

Drinking the Tea
After they exchange bows, the host serves the bowl of tea to the guest of honor, who is seated next to the host. This guest of honor then bows to the next guest, takes two to three sips from the bowl, wipes the rim, turns the bowl and passes to the next guest while bowing. This exchange continues around the circle until each participant has tasted the tea. Then, the host cleans the equipment again. The guests pass around and admire the cleaned equipment before it is put away.

As everyone leaves the “tea room,” they bow again to symbolize the end of the ceremony.

For more information
*New Tastes in Green Tea, by Mutsuko Tokunaga
*The Urasenke Foundation:

Green Tea Dora Yaki

A special type of sweet called Wagashi is served with tea to counter its bitter flavor. Wagashi are teacakes that come in various shapes, sizes, colors and flavors. These sweets are bought in confectionary stores, as they are difficult to make at home. As a substitute, try making Green Tea Dora Yaki, a simple adaptation of Dora Yaki, traditional miniature pancakes filled with red bean paste (we use jam instead).

7 oz. organic pancake mix
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons green tea powder
1 large egg
1 cup blueberry jam
Butter or vegetable oil for cooking

1. Have children help measure 2 tablespoons green tea into a medium mixing bowl.
2. Add milk, egg, and pancake mix into bowl and blend well. Children of any age can assist in measuring each ingredient and blending.
3. Adults should take the lead in the remainder of the cooking so that kids aren’t working at the hot stove. Add 1/2 teaspoon butter or oil to large frying pan and heat on medium for 1 minute.
4. Keeping in mind that this batter makes 10 pancakes. Spoon dollops of batter into the pan—final size should be about 4 inches in diameter. Make sure to space the batter sufficiently so the pancakes do not touch. When bubbles form on top, flip and cook for about 2 more minutes. Transfer to a large plate or platter and allow to cool.
5. Once the pancakes have cooled to room temperature, kids can help spread a generous amount of blueberry jam on a pancake and then place another pancake on top to make a sandwich.

Serves 5

For more information please go to

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