Cha No Yu (The Way of Tea)

When you study tea ceremony, you'll understand there's a difference between conducting a tea ceremony for everyday lives and performing it for a ceremonial aspect.

Randy Channell Soei shares that they prefer to call the daily application of the "way of tea" as cha no yu (hot water for tea), where they try to put the principles of harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility into balance.

Nick: So what I've learned from researching you, Sensei, is that the translation tea ceremony doesn't best describe what cha no yu represents. So would you like to talk about that?

Randy: Interestingly enough, our school doesn't like to use the term tea ceremony, other schools will use it, and to be perfectly honest, up late even our schools tend to use it a little bit because everybody knows it is the tea ceremony.

But what we want to avoid is the ceremonial aspect of that. So it's something that, if the grand tea master or his father does a ceremonial serving in a temple or shrine or a funeral, even, that is more of a ceremonial style.

But what we do in our everyday lives is to try to put these principles of harmony, respect, purity and tranquility, into balance. 

So it's something that shouldn't be really ceremonial. Of course, looking at it from the outside, it might appear to be ceremonial, but the term that I prefer is cha no yu, which just means hot water for tea.

But if you take the actual term, in Japanese, the majority of people will call it sado. But in our tradition, we prefer to call it chado, like Judo, Kendo, these are terms that go together.

So it's something that just trying to bring it into everyday life would be the major point that I would try to say, it's not that ceremonial, it might look it, but when you understand a little bit more about it, then you can see it's more of a practical basis. 

Nick: I did have a tea ceremony experience a long time ago, when I first went to Japan in '95, with my employer. Then on a recent trip, I had something far less formal, it was just as someone made me a beautiful cup of matcha in a Kyoto garden.

So in a sense, it wasn't really a way of tea experience, but it still felt, actually that experience probably was more enjoyable than the first one because I remember the first one, I was thinking about my sore legs after about five minutes of sitting on my knees.

I do like the way you express that it can be a ceremony in the context of perhaps a funeral or when you're welcoming important guests, or if there's an occasion but also it is just drinking tea with someone being the host and someone being the guest.

Randy: Exactly. At the end of the day, that's exactly what it is, you're being served sweet with a bowl of tea and that's what it is. 

But around that, of course, has built a complete art form we say in Japanese, sogo bijutsu or sogo geijutsu which means a complete art form unto itself. 

So in every aspect, I actually go into it in my book, the connection between a lot of traditional Japanese arts and the way of tea and how they brought each other up.