I make a bowl of matcha in the morning for myself and I always make a point of sitting down to enjoy it rather than drinking standing in the kitchen before I start my day. But I will tell you that a bowl of matcha always tastes so much better if someone makes it for you. Even though I make my own bowl of tea exactly the way I like it — hot and thick — I still think a bowl of tea tastes better even if my host doesn’t make it perfectly suited to my taste. Why is that?
I believe it is the personal touch that matters. Making a bowl of tea for someone nurtures a personal relationship that goes beyond words. In a literal sense, giving food and drink to someone sustains life, and creates a bond between people. Sitting down and breaking bread and drinking together has always been a way to affirm or create relationships between people.
When I was a new student at Midorikai, my sempai asked me to make a bowl of tea for him after class in the mizuya. I was in a hurry, and I wanted to finish up my chores in the mizuya before dinner. So I didn’t warm the bowl, and I didn’t use very hot water, and I just did a cursory whisk of the tea. It was really an awful bowl of tea. After he drank it, he told me, “Marjorie, when you make a bowl of tea for someone, make it as though it is going to be the best bowl of tea you ever made. Every time you make tea for someone, it is not the practice tea, it is the real tea. Put your heart into it.”
I have never forgotten that lesson and now every time I make a bowl of tea, I put my heart into it. I not only put my heart but love into it as well. When we host someone at a chakai, all the preparation that goes into it comes from the heart. In temae, all the purification of utensils is also purification of your heart so that by the time you are ready to make tea, it is your pure heart that goes into making it.
And you can taste this difference in the tea. The taste of heart and love is the same as when you were small and your mom made your favorite meal. Nobody who ever made the same meal could ever come close to making that meal taste as good. Mom’s home cooking is the best.
That is why when I see videos like this:
I find it hard to think about drinking this tea. With a machine, you can program it to make a consistent bowl of tea every time — the same amount of tea and water, the same number of strokes, the same consistency bowl after bowl after bowl. But a machine making tea cannot create the same kind of experience that a human making a bowl of tea can. Besides no heart and no love, the lovely sound of the whisk is obscured by the mechanics of the gears and clicking of the machine. There is a separation of people where all eyes on the machine. Where is the beauty, the harmony and tranquility?
Making a bowl of tea can never be replaced by machine. It can only come from our own hands.