Jul 12, 2009

A Pure Heart Creates Pure Tea

Sei (Purity) is one of the four principles of Chanoyu. Purity is the quality of having an open mind and heart; which is reflected in the care the host puts into the ritual purification of the tea utensils. The purification is done in full view of the guests and is an important part of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Recently, my Sensei gave me the gift of a new Fukusa. This beautiful, square piece of silk is bold red and so far, untamed. Men and women often use different colored Fukusa. Women typically use a color associated with male energy (Yang), while men use a color such as violet, representative of female energy (Yin). As in all things, balance is essential.

The Fukusa is used in the tea ceremony to purify the Natsume (tea container) and Chashaku (tea scoop). During the course of the ceremony, the Fukusa is folded and refolded so that a new surface is used each time. In this way, the cloth is always new, always clean, always pure.

Tea is made by combining two simple ingredients: hot water and matcha. Each element is pure and complete in its own right. When combined, the purest form of tea is produced. Sugar is never added to the tea itself. Instead, guests are invited to eat a sweet before the tea is served.

The pure intentions of the host are reflected in the care for the utensils, the clean water and the minimalistic decor of the tea room itself. Each movement and each item have a clear purpose which create the atmosphere for the simplest of beverages to be sincerely enjoyed and purely appreciated.

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