the Way of Tea
uses the Internet to learn more about this Eastern
by Roberta Roberti
March 1, 2003
Chado and chanoyu kept nibbling at my brain. What were
these foreign words that kept popping up on my screen?
As I researched an article I was writing about online
tea purveyors, these words distracted me from my subject.
"Later," I told myself. When I've had a chance
to purchase a bag of nice African rooibos tea and I can
sit and peruse those Web sites again, then I'll investigate
chado and chanoyu.
When the time came, it was more difficult to find an explanation
for the terms than I expected.
Chanoyu is a Japanese tea ceremony, but saying that is
like calling the Grand Canyon a hole in the ground. Chanoyu,
which literally means "hot water for tea," is
a process that takes years to master. From chanoyu came
chado, or "the way of tea." This is the spiritual
journey taken through chanoyu. It is not an end or destination,
mind you, like nirvana. Rather, it is, in essence, the
elevation of aspects of everyday life to a higher spiritual
realm, and it is a lifelong lesson. If you are interested
in seriously pursuing the disciplines of chanoyu and chado,
your best bet is to connect with a tea master, but you
can get a head start with the basic principles and history
from these online sources:
of Florida [http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/jmassey2].
This is a site dedicated to "promoting the Japanese
tea ceremony." It gives a brief but adequate explanation
of the four principles of tea, which are wa (harmony),
kei (respect), sei (purity), and jaku (tranquility). When
you're ready to host a tea ceremony, refer to a section
called The Seven Secrets of Tea. The secrets sound simple
enough: Make tea that is pleasant to drink, make the tea
room comfortable, arrive ahead of time, etc. These seven
secrets not only ensure a successful chanoyu but are also
reflections of how life should be, as taught by Rikyu,
the father of chanoyu. Then you can follow along with
the steps of the ceremony. The site explains the actual
actions of chanoyu and why they are done. In addition
to a word glossary, there is a pictorial glossary, showing
all the objects used in chanoyu, categorized into bamboo,
wood and ceramic, and metal and miscellaneous. Under each
photo is an explanation of its function.
The site briefly discusses tea's relevance to Zen Buddhism
and its connection to Christianity. While more complete
histories of chanoyu can be found elsewhere, this site
contributes a few quirky details, such as the 14th-century
tea-guessing game of toche, wherein people were given
100 bowls of tea and had to guess from what part of Japan
the teas came.
This site has basically two things to offer: steps for
a chanoyu and descriptions of hanging scrolls. The steps
for the chanoyu are separated into those for the guests
and those for the host, which makes it easy for both to
practice and memorize the steps more easily. A hanging
scroll (kakemono) is considered crucial to the décor
of a tea room because the scroll a host chooses sets the
tone for the ceremony and symbolizes its purpose. Cha-No-Yu
has a list of different scrolls a host may choose from,
and the glossary is helpful too. There is a basic explanation
of chanoyu and the history is brief. The author has a
good grasp of the English language, but at times it gets
muddled, making it difficult to follow. Most of the links
do not work, but the author admits to being unable to
maintain the site. The computer paintbrush artwork on
the welcome page does little to enhance the site, but
it is a sweet gesture towards the promotion of peaceful
Kaihan Zen Magazine [http://www.kaihan.com/japanese-culture.htm].
This site has a page called Tea & the Tea Ceremonies.
It is an odd site that has less to do with tea than with
Zen Buddhism and the author's feelings about East-West
relations. It reads somewhat like a dissertation. You
won't find much information here about chanoyu itself,
but if you feel—and you'd better really feel —like
venturing into a philosophical analysis of the essence
of tea, its relation to Asian culture, and East-West misunderstandings,
this is the place to go.
Along with an informative historical synopsis, this site
has a brief discussion of fabrics and utensils, as well
as a pictorial guide to conducting a chanoyu, told in
the first person.
Interestingly, TeaHyakka Magazine includes an explanation
of how chanoyu fits into the Chinese Yin Yang/Five Elements/Feng
Shui philosophies. It gives examples of chanoyu elements
and how the elements represent these philosophies; even
the tea room itself is arranged in a yin yang fashion,
as seen in the diagram provided.
The most intriguing part of this site is the transcript
of a talk given by Brother Joseph Keenan in Japan in 1990.
It does not tell us much about the physical act of chanoyu,
but elaborates on the tea ceremony as a cultural art form
and its influence on society. It asks the question, "Why
Do Something as Difficult as Tea?" and eloquently
answers with ancient fables, personal stories, and cultural
references. The difference between this essay and the
one on the Kaihan Zen Magazine site is that Keenan's is
more focused and somehow less aggressive and more penetrating.
He makes chado more approachable and relevant to the here
Holy Mountain Trading Company
This site has a lot of fun stuff related to tea (e.g.,
legends of ancient gods and goddesses), useful information
(e.g., the health benefits of tea), a beautiful assortment
of Asian and other teapots for sale, and the all-important
rules of etiquette one must follow if one is to be a guest
at a chanoyu. But it is also the only site I could find
for a complete description of a chaji—a full tea
presentation preceded by a meal. It describes the actions
of a chaji as well as what kind of food is served and
how it is served.
For a larger, comparative view of the Asian art of chanoyu,
there are sites dedicated to other nations' ceremonies.
Chinese Tea Ceremony, at http://desires.com/1.4/Food/Docs/tea.html,
discusses the Chinese tea ceremony and compares it with
its Japanese counterpart. Other Chinese tea sites are:
Taipei's Philosophical Tea Masters at
Tea Trail: Chinese Tea Ceremonies at
EasternTea.com's Chinese page at http://www.easterntea.com/ceremony/chineseceremony.htm;
and, with fun in mind, Ancient Customs of Chinese
Wedding Ceremony at Home Of Chinese Bride at
For Korean ceremonies, try Panyaro, the Korean
Way of Tea at http://www.sogang.ac.kr/~anthony/kortea10.htm
and The Korean Way of Tea at http://www.terebess.hu/english/koreantea.html.
If you care to throw a bit of non-Asian culture into the
mix, you can read up on the Russian tea ceremony at http://www.teaware.com.
What I discovered is that you will never master chanoyu
just by reading about it or even by hosting a tea party
in your kitchen with your closest friends. My research
showed me that it is a journey that one embarks on, constantly
learning and always hoping that chado is within grasp.
I'm sure that I have simplified the entire experience
with the narrow spiritual vision of a Westerner, but grander
enlightenment on the subject is what these Web sites are
Whether or not chanoyu is for you, as Brother Joseph Keenan
said, "No matter how or where you follow your path,
don't forget to take the tea!"