Ceremony could be considered as a unifying ritual, a special or sacred occasion, an event to express joy or sorrow, or even a celebration. It is often thought of as something elaborate or grand however, when it comes to the Chadō and Kōdō ceremony it is quite simple, yet rich in ritual and sanctity.
Chadō Tea Ceremony
Chadō, or ‘The Way of the Tea’, is a tea ceremony where preparation and presentation follow a defined ritual to respect lineage, steeped in meaning and purpose.
The Chinese word for tea is Cha, and its Chinese character comprises three parts. The top of the symbol represents the plant, the middle the person and the bottom the tree. Dao is a philosophy that honours the principles of balance, grace, quietude, mindfulness, simplicity, and harmony with nature. The bringing together of these two words beautifully captures the essence of the Chadō tea ceremony and its close connection to nature.
The tea ceremony is profoundly meditative and sensorial, bringing one directly in touch with the present moment by engaging all senses. By slowing and quietening down, we begin to let go of needing to do or say anything. We can then allow the tea to guide us deeper into the present moment and ultimately ourselves. Tea was originally used by Daoists and Sages as a form of medicine and a way to cultivate awakened presence and long states of meditation. The tea ceremony will therefore usually close with a short meditation.
Only sustainably produced, high quality, organic Chinese teas are used, sourced directly from small independent Chinese tea growers. A variety of teas are used, all originating from the Camellia tree found in the Yunnan province of China.
Kōdō Tea Ceremony
Kōdō, or ‘Way of the Incense’, is performed with the same mindful ritual and intent as the tea ceremony. Like tea, it also utilises our human senses, but places smell at the forefront. The interesting thing about smell is that it is our only human sense that when it enters the brain bypasses the thalamus, which is effectively our ‘consciousness receptor’, and instead goes directly to the primary olfactory cortex. This means that it can attach to memories without us consciously registering or processing them. It also means that it forms an intimate link with the neural areas of emotion in our brain, which is why odour triggers such strong emotional, and therefore also physical, responses.
Aloeswood is traditionally used for the incense ceremony because it perfectly complements the tea ceremony. It is unlike commonly used incense, it is not billowing or overpowering, instead it releases a subtle and delicate aroma, which is savoured like refined tea or fine wine. Aloeswood is formed in the heartwood of Aquilaria trees. The trees frequently become infected or wounded and begin to produce an aromatic resin in response to this attack. It is from this precious resinous wood that we obtain the incense. Aloeswood is more valuable by weight than gold and the most expensive aromatic ingredient available, therefore sourcing it needs to be done with caution and environmental consideration.
During the incense ceremony, the Aloeswood is roasted rather than burnt, with charcoal placed inside carefully moulded white ash, which evaporates the oils from the wood, releasing the fragrance gently and slowly, giving off a much more full-bodied and layered aroma.