Due to the close vicinity of Uji’s tea fields Kyoto has a long association with matcha tea: the powdered green tea used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The monk Eisai first brought this powdered tea from China to Japan in 1191, along with Zen Buddhism, and the two traditions have been closely linked ever since.
In Kyoto, Eisai founded the city’s oldest Zen temple, Kenninji, and on its grounds you can find a teahouse designed by the legendary 16th Century tea master Sen no Rikyu, who is responsible for developing the refined tea ceremony that we know today. Called variously Chado, Sado or Cha-no-yu, this ceremony ritualizes the act of preparing, sharing, and tasting tea into a slow, meditative process that emphasizes simplicity, grace and serenity. Yet despite the simplicity of the ceremony itself, the Way of Tea is intimately bound up with many other traditional arts such as calligraphy, ceramics, flower arrangement, and Japanese cuisine. So if you want a gateway into Japanese culture and philosophy, a cup of matcha tea is where you start!
- Daitokuji Temple – Here you can experience both a tea ceremony and Zen meditation together in this 800-year-old temple
- En – A small traditional teahouse in the Gion area of Kyoto where you can experience a tea ceremony
- Tondaya – A machiya house where you can experience various aspects of Japanese culture including the tea ceremony
- The Urasenke School’s Chado Kaikan – gives lessons to foreigners interested in performing a tea ceremony
- Tsujiri – A very famous matcha tea specialist shop in Gion selling the very best matcha powdered tea. They also have a café serving hot and cold teas, and matcha-flavored cakes, parfaits and ice creams!
- Marukyu Koyamaen – Located in nearby Uji. Gives free tours of its matcha tea factory and includes a tea making and sampling session.