Tea Etiquette: How to Serve and Enjoy Tea in Japan

Tea Etiquette: How to Serve and Enjoy Tea in Japan

Tea etiquette is vital in Japan: from the intricate details of the traditional tea ceremony to casually serving guests in your home. There are subtle rules, for the server and the guest, that have been passed down through generations and have become ingrained in Japanese tea culture.  

Tea in Japan is served in cups without handles so you can feel the temperature of the tea as well as the texture of the ceramic cup (from silky smooth to coarse).

When serving tea to guests, prepare the exact amount of tea for the number of people being served. Place the tea cups and coasters separately on a serving tray and use both hands when presenting each guest with their cup of tea, with the pattern on the teacup facing the guest. 

Tea Etiquette: How to Serve and Enjoy Tea in Japan

When drinking your tea, use both hands on our cup. Pick up your cup with your right hand and with your left lightly touching. Move your left hand to the bottom of the cup and drink with both hands. You can make a slurping sound while drinking matcha but not when drinking sencha. 

Like wine, there are many ways to pair tea with food based on the tastes, textures and flavors. Tea is often served alongside food such as pickled vegetables (tsukemono), seasonal fruits, rice crackers and sweets. When serving tea with food, the tea cup should be placed to the right of the guest with the food on the left. Try pairing sencha with your favorite Japanese sweets or wagashi, genmaicha with an umami rich soy sauce senbei (rice cracker) or houjicha with salty, smoked or aged foods.  

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