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The tea was hot, the night air was icy fresh and delicious.

Takemoto Ikuo tea bowl

Tea bowl by Takemoto Ikuo

Our Tea teacher is a true, classic Japanese gentleman.  He knows how to create a candle-lit Tea event to celebrate the October full moon; he can prepare a bowl of offertory Tea, placing it on the altar of a Shinto Shrine; he can organize season-specific, three-hour Tea events for dozens of people in a way that is gracious and seemingly effortless.  Most of all, he can talk about Tea and even excite already knowledgeable people. And for those with no knowledge of Tea, he can create a warm and safe place and inspire them with his unique enthusiasm for beauty in-the-moment.

The Way of Tea was laid out by Sen no Rikyu in the late 1500’s.  He introduced the concepts of wabi and sabi into the Japanese mindset.  He turned the aesthetics of Japan from focus on the perfection of Chinese arts into a culture that valued rusticity, patina, asymmetry and understated beauty.  He pared down the previously popular, aristocratic Chinese-style of tea party and combined it with the way Zen monks communally share roughhewn bowls of whisked tea before meditation.  In so doing, he created a secular way to incorporate Zen teachings into everyday life.  Practitioners of Tea study the arts and become connoisseurs of Japan’s innumerable ceramic styles, bamboo flower baskets, ikebana, ink painting and calligraphy, lacquer ware and food presentation.  They then learn how to masterfully blend the right combination of implements with the right combination of guests into stunning tea events.  By learning dozens of meticulously orchestrated variations of the “performance of tea” for guests, they develop focus, mind-fullness and gracefulness that can then be applied to their everyday lives.

When I first began studying Tea, I assumed that I would master the basics in about a year.  Now, three years later, I find myself only beginning to understand what Tea is about.