When Murata Jukō, a Zen monk and tea master, promoted matcha and the tea ceremony as a celebration of simplicity, naturalness and mental health – he knew nothing about cramped subway cars or loudly chewing cubicle neighbors or that bottomless Netflix queue awaiting you at home.
No – Murata Jukō was concerned with utensils. Namely, the garish and polished and expensive Chinese tea utensils that were becoming wildly popular in the 15th-century Japan. They were a distraction, in his opinion, these ceramic wares - all crafted to perfection – were an unneeded excess in the matcha tea ceremony.
Instead, Jukō began using utensils of simple bamboo and roughly hewn cups. He advocated uncluttered tea rooms, modest decorations, unadorned walls instead of the traditional shelving that would have been filled with expensive trinkets and family heirlooms meant to impress guests.
Whisk and bowl and scoop and cup. Powdered tea and water.
These were the only true accessories needed for enjoyment of matcha tea. And they have remained untouched through time.
There is beauty in simplicity – this was one of Jukō’s lasting axioms – and there is peace in seeking out a pocket of complete calm within a hectic world filled with excess.
From its Zen beginnings in the 6th-century, the tea ceremony has been a way of removing the huge weight of material concerns from our lives. The ritual in preparing matcha is meant to immerse you in the humble and simple aspects of daily life – a quiet solitude, if only for a little bit. A temporary freedom from your mind and ego and a little bit of clarity in a world muddied with corporate acronyms and push notifications and endless food and drink options.
For the preparer and sharer of matcha, the purpose and meaning of the tea has remained the same for nearly fifteen centuries. It’s a means of selfcare in a stressful world. Helping you navigate down those avenues of self-reflection that are so difficult to locate in an increasingly complex life.
And matcha was so integral to Jukō’s central philosophy that he wrote, “the flavor of tea is the flavor of Zen.”
There’s a reason matcha tea has been a companion to practiced meditation for generations.
So, turn off the television. Mentally block out those student loans. Just for a little bit, try to ignore those rattling pipes and loud neighbors and the bustling city streets just outside. Those early morning emails from your boss – you know, the guy with the terrible ties and worse jokes and the dangerously loose understanding of a work/life balance – they’ll still be there when you’re finished.
Prepare your matcha with intention, keep a clear mind, and focus on those simple pleasures we’ve all taken for granted. Find your inner peace.