The practice of Sado is more than just drinking bitter Japanese green tea. It has its own doctrines and philosophies. People learn these principles through the countless rules of making and drinking matcha.
Sado that is practiced today, was founded by Sen no Rikyu. He established the traditions and rules of wabi-cha, which focuses on simplicity and zen. Sen no Rikyu practiced Sado in a small hut, built especially for making and drinking tea. Currently, there are many tea huts in Japan, but most Sado is performed in tatami floor (a traditional Japanese flooring made from igusa grass) tea rooms that are built inside homes. Both huts and rooms have Japanese gardens or courtyards beside them, so that customers (people who are invited to drink the tea) can enjoy the scenery.
The rules of Sado are extremely complicated, and it is impossible to learn them all in a day. There are also techniques of making good tea, which can only be acquired through years of practice. When making tea, there is a specific routine that must be followed. This routine includes rules for every single move. For example, each tool must be used correctly and placed in its designated position on the tray.
Customers also have rules that they should follow. Seating is one of them. Customers must sit with their legs folded and sit side by side in a line. Depending on the amount of Sado knowledge you have, you either sit on the ends of the line (if you have more experience and knowledge), or in the middle. There are also certain phrases that you say when you are given the tea. For example, saying “osaki choudai shimasu,” while bowing slightly to the person next to you, shows that you are excusing yourself for drinking before him or her. There are rules for drinking too. You should not drink from the front of the cup, because there is a painting. So, before drinking, slide the cup in your hands to avoid the painting.
Enjoying the season is another important aspect of Sado. The flowers used for the ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement) that decorates the room, are often what you would find in that particular season. Also, the cups are chosen so that the painting on the front suits the current season. So, after you have finished your tea, take a look around the room, garden, and at the cup painting and appreciate the season.