". . . and then you drink it."

Etiquette is a natural part of the evolution of tea drinking from an everyday activity, to a path for spiritual enlightenment. Repeating the same act in the same way, over and over, quickly goes from a conscious effort to a passive, selfless act of meditation. This seemingly contradictory point, that one achieves freedom through form, is the reason the mundane act of drinking tea is ritualised in chanoyu. 


But prior to any protocol, the most important thing when drinking matcha is to simply enjoy your tea in a moment of quietude.


Almost 400 years ago, the founder of the Ueda School, Ueda Sōko wrote the following brief and easy to understand guide for achieving a moment's quietude through matcha drinking:


“First take the chawan and raise it, showing your respect to the chawan by bowing. Then lower the chawan and look at the colour of the tea. Bring the chawan to your mouth, but don’t drink the tea straight away. Take a moment to inhale the steam. Drink the tea in three mouthfuls. Wipe the part of the rim from which you drank with your fingers.”


The sensory aspects of inhaling the steam, peering into the deep green and feeling the heat of the tea transmit through the clay of the chawan are particularly important for achieving a tranquil mind. Here the introspective aspects of zen meditation are brought into the everyday, tactile world and tea drinking becomes a path linking the mundane and the transcendent. 

Etiquette for drinking matcha

Should you wish to follow the full drinking protocol followed in the Ueda Sōko Ryū, or even if just curious about the meanings behind the gestures, the etiquette for drinking matcha is detailed here:

  • Bow to the next guest beside you waiting for tea to excuse yourself for going first.
  • Bow to the host to thank them for the tea.
  • Receive your bowl of tea and place it before your seat.
  • Note the face of the bowl (decorative side), never drink from the face of the bowl.
  • Take the bowl in your right hand and rest it on the palm of your left hand.
  • Raise the bowl with both hands and bow to the tea and bowl.
  • Lower the bowl and turn it 45 degrees to the left (clockwise) with your right hand, while it rests on your left hand.
  • Leisurely enjoy your tea, ideally in three sips. But don’t take too long or the matcha will settle.
  • After drinking, wipe the part of the rim you drank from with you thumb and index finger, left to right. Then wipe a second time with your little finger, left to right.
  • Turn the bowl back so the face is facing you - 45 degrees to the right (anti-clockwise).
  • View the tea bowl. Hold the bowl with both hands, resting your elbows on the table or on your thighs and appreciate the bowl, keeping it at a low height and handling with great care.
  • Turn the bowl twice clockwise (so that the face faces the host) and return the bowl to the host.