Tea equipment is called chadōgu (茶道具; literally “tea tools”). A wide range of chadōgu is necessary for even the most basic style of chanoyu. A full list of all available tea implements and supplies and their various styles and variations could fill a several-hundred-page book. The following is a brief list of some essential components:

  • Chakin (茶巾). The “chakin” is a small rectangular white linen or hemp cloth mainly used to wipe the tea bowl.
 

Two modern “thin tea” bowls

  • Tea bowl (chawan 茶碗; main article: chawan). Tea bowls are available in a wide range of sizes and styles, and different styles are used for thick and thin tea (see Tea ceremony, below). Shallow bowls, which allow the tea to cool rapidly, are used in summer; deep bowls are used in winter. Bowls are frequently named by their creators or owners, or by a tea master. Bowls over four hundred years old are in use today, but only on unusually special occasions. The best bowls are thrown by hand, and some bowls are extremely valuable. Irregularities and imperfections are prized: they are often featured prominently as the “front” of the bowl.
Broken tea bowls are painstakingly repaired using a mixture of lacquer and other natural ingredients. Powdered gold is added to disguise the dark colour of the lacquer, and is known as kintsugi or “joint with gold,” and additional designs are sometimes created with the mixture. Bowls repaired in this fashion are used mainly in November, when tea practitioners begin using the ro, or hearth, again, as an expression and celebration of the concept of wabi, or humble simplicity.
  • Tea caddy (chaire 茶入 and natsume ; main article: chaki). Tea caddies come in two basic styles, the natsume and the chaire, though there is variation in shape, size and colour within the styles. Chaire, which are used for koicha, are usually tall and thin (but shapes may vary significantly) and have ivory lids with gold leaf undersides. Chaire are usually ceramic, and are stored in decorative bags called shifuku. Natsume are mostly used for usucha, and are named for their resemblance to the natsume fruit (the jujube). They are short with a flat lid and rounded bottom, and are usually made of lacquered wood.
  • Tea scoop (chashaku 茶杓). Tea scoops generally are carved from a single piece of bamboo, although they may also be made of ivory or wood. They are used to scoop tea from the tea caddy into the tea bowl. Bamboo tea scoops in the most casual style have a nodule in the approximate center. Larger scoops are used to transfer tea into the tea caddy in the mizuya (preparation area), but these are not seen by guests. Different styles and colours are used in various tea traditions.
  • Tea whisk (chasen 茶筅). This is the implement used to mix the powdered tea with the hot water. Tea whisks are carved from a single piece of bamboo. There are various types. Tea whisks quickly become worn and damaged with use, and the host should use a new one when holding a chakai or chaji.
Old and damaged whisks are not simply discarded. Once a year around May, they are taken to local temples and ritually burned in a simple ceremony called chasen kuyō, which reflects the reverence with which objects are treated in the tea ceremony.

All the tools for tea ceremony are handled with exquisite care. They are scrupulously cleaned before and after each use and before storing.

According to the “Latter Chronical of Japan” (日本後記; Nihon Kōki), drinking of tea was introduced to Japan in the 9th century, by the Buddhist monk Eichū (永忠), who had returned to Japan from China. This is the first documented evidence of tea in Japan. The entry in the “Latter Chronical of Japan” states that Eichū personally prepared and served “simmered tea” (煎茶, sencha) to Emperor Saga who was on an excursion in Karasaki (in present Shiga Prefecture) in the year 815. By imperial order in the year 816, tea plantations began to be cultivated in the Kinki region of Japan.[1] However, the interest in tea in Japan faded after this.[2]

In China, tea had already been known, according to legend, for more than a thousand years. The form of tea popular in China in the era when Eichū went for studies was “brick tea” (団茶 dancha?). The brick tea was made by steaming and pounding tea leaves, pressing this into moulds, and drying this until hard. This then would be ground in a mortar, and the resulting ground tea decocted together with various other herbs and/or flavorings.[3]

The custom of drinking tea, first for medicinal, and then largely also for pleasurable reasons, was already widespread throughout China. In the early 9th century, Chinese author Lu Yu wrote the Chá jīng (茶經, the Classic of Tea), a treatise on tea focusing on its cultivation and preparation. Lu Yu’s life had been heavily influenced by Buddhism, particularly the ZenChán school. (This form of Buddhism is known as Chan in China and Zen in Japan). His ideas would have a strong influence in the development of the Japanese tea ceremony.[4]

Around the end of the 12th century, the style of tea preparation called “tencha” (点茶), in which powdered tea was placed in a bowl, hot water poured into the bowl, and the tea and hot water whipped together, was introduced by Eisai, another Japanese monk returning from China. He also brought tea seeds back with him, which eventually produced tea that was of the most superb quality in all of Japan.[5]

This powdered green tea was first used in religious rituals in Buddhist monasteries. By the 13th century, samurai warriors had begun preparing and drinking matcha as they adopted Zen Buddhism, and the foundations of the tea ceremony were laid.

Tea ceremony developed as a “transformative practice,” and began to evolve its own aesthetic, in particular that of wabi. Wabi, meaning quiet or sober refinement, or subdued taste, “is characterized by humility, restraint, simplicity, naturalism, profundity, imperfection, and asymmetry [emphasizing] simple, unadorned objects and architectural space, and [celebrating] the mellow beauty that time and care impart to materials.”[6] Ikkyū, who revitalized Zen in the 15th century, had a profound influence on the tea ceremony.

By the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan. Sen no Rikyu, perhaps the most well-known—and still revered—historical figure in tea ceremony, followed his master, Takeno Jōō‘s, concept of ichi-go ichi-e, a philosophy that each meeting should be treasured, for it can never be reproduced. His teachings perfected many newly developed forms in Japanese architecture and gardens, fine and applied arts, and the full development of chadō, “the “way of tea”. The principles he set forward – harmony ( wa?), respect ( kei?), purity ( sei?), and tranquility ( jaku?) – are still central to tea ceremony.

Many schools of Japanese tea ceremony have evolved through the long history of chanoyu, and are active today.