A Tea Ceremony Etiquette for the First Timers

Several guests can be invited to a tea ceremony. For a small meeting the average number of guests would be around four or five. The first guest or guest of honor is called Shokyaku, the second guest is a Jikyaku, and the others are called simply Kyaku. Also the last guest has a special name which is Tsume. These guests have a special ranking and a sitting order in the Chashitsu. According to their sitting order or ranking they have fixed duties to perform during the tea ceremony. For example, the Shokyaku who is the principal guest is the main person to communicate with the Teishu. The Shokyaku will ask the Teishu where certain tea utensils are from, where they were made, and who made them. When the Shokyaku asks questions, he or she has to use a humble language, a clear voice, consider the correct timing so to not create trouble for the tea-host, and always thank the Teishu for providing an answer. (See: Dialog between Shokyaku and Teishu )

Receiving and eating Wagashi

Usually one of the first things brought into the Chashitsu is a bowl or dish with sweets called Wagashi. Teishu will sit in front of the Shokyaku and place the dish in between them. Teishu bows and verbally indicates that these are sweets for the guests to eat. Shokyaku bows back and with both hands moves the bowl to the right. These sweets are not to be eaten immediately but only when Teishu has warmed the Chawan with hot water from the Kama and discarded the waste water into the Kensui.

Drinking Koicha

Pick up the Chawan

Koicha is served together with a Dashibukusa. Shokyaku will stand up, walk to the Chawan, and sit down in front of it. With the right hand the dashibukusa is placed on the palm of the left hand. Then the Chawan is placed on top of the dashibukusa. Shokyaku walks back to his seat and sit down. The Chawan is placed in front of the knees with the dashibukusa next to it on the left but not on the same Tatami. Kimono or clothes are re-arranged before continuing.

Apologies and bows

Chawan is picked-up again and placed on the same Tatami but on Shokyaku's left side. Shokyaku will apologize for drinking before others. Then, pick up the Chawan and place it in front of his knees, bow to the Teishu and say: "Otemae chodai itashimasu".

Ready to drink

Place the Dashibukusa on the palm of the left hand and the Chawan on top. At chest height with the right hand the Chawan is turned clockwise two times so that the Shomen comes to the left. Make sure to lift the Chawan properly in order not to damage the fragile Dashibukusa. Raise the Chawan a little higher with simultaneous little knot toward the Teishu to indicate one is about to start drinking. Koicha is shared with three people altogether, so take about three sips to leave enough for the the next two guests. When Shokyaku has tasted enough, the Chawan is placed in front of the knees again.

Wiping the rim

Now, the rim needs to be wiped with a Kaishi. Take one Kaishi from the stack and fold one of the corners over the rim where the Macha is. Be careful not to wipe too deep into the bowl because that would be wasting good Macha. This wiping of the rim is more a "gesture" of cleanliness than actual cleaning. Fold the Kaishi one more time and wipe the rim again. Place Kaishi in the left sleeve of the Kimono. When the tea-bowl has passed all the guests during Koicha, the Tsume and Shokyaku will move close to the Teishu where the Tsume will return the bowl to the Shokyaku. The Shokyaku will inspect the Chawan one more time to make sure it is not damaged, then return it to the host by placing it at the same location where the Teishu had placed it before.


During Usucha the Shokyaku will ask the other guests if they had enough or want to drink more green tea. If all guests had enough, the shokyaku will ask the host to clean up and to finish the tea ceremony.


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