The Japanese tea ceremony is a very elaborate affair. It is like a sacred ritual that is conducted in a special room called chashitsu located in the tea house. Each aspect of the ceremony is symbolic and adds great charm and meaning to this unique event.
The fresh water symbolizing purity is held in a stone jar called the mizusashi and can be touched only by the host. Matcha is kept in chaire - a small ceramic container covered in shifuku (fine silk pouch) and is set in front of the mizusashi. The type of tana (stand), used to display the tea bowls is dictated by the occasion.
The host enters with the chawan (tea bowl) containing chasen (tea whisk), chakin (a bleached white linen tea cloth), and the chashaku (tea scoop). These he arranges next to the water jar, symbolic of sun (yang); the bowl is the moon (yin). The host then brings the kensui (waste water bowl), the hishaku (bamboo water ladle) and futaoki (a green bamboo rest for the kettle lid). He then purifies the tea container and scoop using a fukusa (fine silk cloth).
Hot water is then ladled into the tea bowl, the whisk is rinsed, the tea bowl is emptied and wiped with the chakin. The host then places three scoops of tea per guest into the tea bowl. A thin paste with the whisk is created using sufficient quantity of hot water. Additional water is then added so that the paste can be whisked into a thick liquid.
The tea bowl is then passed to the main guest who drinks some of the tea, wipes the rim of the bowl, and passes the bowl to the next guest who follows the same procedure. When all the guests have tasted the tea, the bowl is returned to the host who rinses it and cleans the tea scoop and the tea container.
Then a fire is built for usa cha (thin tea) which rinses the palate, symbolizing the departure of the guests from the spiritual world of tea and back into the physical world. Smoking articles are offered as a sign for relaxation, but usually smoking does not take place in a tearoom. Zabuton (cushions) and teaburi (hand warmers) are offered and higashi (dry sweets) are served. The guests then express their appreciation for the tea and admiration for the art of the host and proceed to leave the teahouse.