What is a tea ceremony?

Photos by Joanne Crawford

So…. what is tea ceremony?

A casual google search or glance on Wikipedia may make you think it’s ‘just’ a cultural or traditional activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of tea often ‘performed’ in China or Japan.

It can be!  but it can also be so much more.

For me and for many others, tea ceremony is an entire experience, a celebration, a way of connecting to nature, to ourselves and to each other, a way of gathering in commune, a way of marking a rite of passage or intention, a meditation, a spiritual event, a way of being in service and a really accessible way of practicing mindfulness.

It’s fast become accepted that mindfulness can improve our mental wellbeing, that an awareness of the present moment and how we are feeling right here and right now, is healthy.  That when we start to be present, we start noticing the world around us, in all its beauty and splendor and we start to properly experience it, be that through sight, sound, taste or smell.  Mindfulness is like waking up,

So how does serving tea ceremonially fit in. When we drink tea in ceremony we aren’t just drinking tea as a beverage.

‘Ceremonies are the way that we remember to remember… the power of ceremony is that it marries the mundane to the sacred’.

Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer

When tea ceremony is practised, every aspect of the ceremony is practiced with upmost gratitude and respect.  Respect for the tea (for the trees/ plants which were harvested; for the farmers who grew the plants, for mother earth for providing all that the trees/plants needed to thrive), respect for the guests, respect for the occasion and a respect for the method/tradition/lineage.

When we treat something with respect we pay attention to detail, when we pay attention to detail we properly experience it and are present without really noticing or trying that hard.

Drinking tea in ceremony allows us to ease into being present in a relaxed and comfortable way. If you have ever struggled with breath meditation, tea ceremony could help, tea and the serving of her provides us with a tool or focus.

We listen for the sounds of the kettle arriving at a bubbling boil, we smell the aroma of the tea leaves brewing, we watch the leaves unfurling from their tight curls.  Then we sip from the most precious warmed and purified teaware.  We taste the earthiness of the tea that has been poured so carefully for us.  We sit and we feel special and we feel present. 

When we gather in a group to drink tea in ceremony, we connect in silence with each other over a common goal / shared purpose and we can delight together in finding beauty in the everyday.


As you may now have realised.  Perhaps it is easier to say what tea ceremony is not – it isn’t just about drinking tea!

Why not see for yourself?  Tea Clay Love holds a community tea ceremony at the Wakefield Mindfulness Centre fortnightly on a Monday evening 18:30pm – 20:00pm.  I look forward to sharing tea with you.

In love and light

Tea Clay Love

*I perform tea ceremony in the tradition and lineage of my teacher Wu De and his school of Zen and Tea ‘The Tea Sage Hut’.   The Tea Sage Hut aims ‘to promote, cultivate and express an awakening of harmony through tea’… we believe in a “five-fold essence of tea: 1.  Tea is nature; 2. Tea is medicine; 3. Tea is heart and spirit; 4. Tea is friendship; 5. Tea is an act of kindness” … “Love is changing the world bowl by bowl”. 

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