With mid-July comes 小暑 shōsho (“minor heat”), the week’s that precede the hottest part of Summer. Even so, the heat of the day is hard to bear, leaving tea people to want to gather in the early morning.
In the dim light of dawn, a sense of coolness pervades, the muted colors and dark pools of shadow paring down the environment to its essentials. In the tearoom, this continues, with only the bare minimum used. A teabowl, a bamboo 茶筅 chasen (tea whisk), a well bucket containing cool water.
On this morning, as a light rain aids in keeping down the heat, I bring into the tearoom a small porcelain tea container from the 景德鎮 Jǐngdézhèn kiln, upon which blossoming lotus flowers have been painted in a deep cobalt blue. For my guest, this becomes a subtle nod that in July lotus viewing tea gatherings (蓮見の茶 hasu-mi no cha) are held in the early morning, right at the moment the floating aquatic flowers begin to bloom.
Holding it in my hand, I purify the porcelain container, the soft silk of the 仕服 shifuku gliding off its smooth surface.
Next I cleanse the 茶杓 chashaku.
I take pause, to let myself and the guest appreciate the bamboo of the teascoop, its skin dappled with tiny spots which resemble light rain.
Finally, I cleanse the teabowl, an antique 萩焼茶碗 Hagi-yaki chawan, the color of which is similar to the light blush pink of a lotus bud.
Placing the first scoop of tea into the teabowl feels like entering into a dark cavern; the dawn producing voluminous swaths of glowing light and soft shadows.
Whisking the tea into a foam, I can’t help but to peer down into the teabowl, appreciating the low peaks and minute textures that give rise.
Finished and ready for my guest, we sit to enjoy the glowing presence of the 抹茶 matcha, itself, like a blossoming lotus, fragrant and electric.
Quietly enjoyed, the teabowl is returned to be cleansed once again, a thin residue of tea foam still clinging to its interior.
Concluding the tea gathering becomes its own meditation. The sound of the 茶釜 chagama (spoutless tea kettle), the light patter of rain, the shifting of silk over the chashaku once more.
A final appreciation of the teaware and the light of the day begins to creep through the screen of 簾 sudare (woven blinds made of reeds).