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Matrons who toss the cup, and see

The grounds of Fate in grounds of tea.



The queen of teas in Japan is a fine straw-colored beverage,

delicate and subtle in flavor, and as invigorating as a glass of

champagne. It is real Japan tea, and seldom leaves its native

heath for
he reason that, while it is peculiarly adaptable to the

Japanese constitution, it is too stimulating for the finely-tuned

and over-sensitive Americans, who, by the way, are said to be

the largest customers for Japan teas of other grades in the world.

This particular tea, which looks as harmless as our own importations

of the leaf, is a very insidious beverage, as an American lady

soon found out after taking some of it late at night. She declared,

after drinking a small cup before retiring, she did not close

her eyes in sleep for a week. We do not know the name of the brand

of tea, and are glad of it; for we live in a section where the

women are especially curious.

But the drink of the people at large in Japan is green tea,

although powdered tea is also used, but reserved for special

functions and ceremonial occasions. Tea, over there, is not

made by infusing the leaves with boiling water, as is the case

with us; but the boiling water is first carefully cooled in another

vessel to 176 degrees Fahrenheit. The leaves are also renewed

for every infusion. It would be crime against his August

Majesty, the Palate, to use the same leaves more than once--in

Japan. The preparation of good tea is regarded by the Japs as the

height of social art, and for that reason it is an important

element in the domestic, diplomatic, political, and general life

of the country.

Tea is the beverage--the masterpiece--of every meal, even if it

be nothing but boiled rice. Every artisan and laborer, going to

work, carries with him his rice-box of lacquered wood, a kettle,

a tea-caddy, a tea-pot, a cup, and his chop-sticks. Milk and

sugar are generally eschewed. The Japs and the Chinese never

indulge in either of these ingredients in tea; the use of which,

they claim, spoils the delicate aroma.

From the highest court circles down to the lowliest and poorest

of the Emperor's subjects, it is the custom in both Japan and

China to offer tea to every visitor upon his arrival. Not to do

this would be an unpardonable breach of national manners.

Even in the shops, the customer is regaled with a soothing cup

before the goods are displayed to him. This does not, however,

impose any obligation on the prospective purchaser, but it is,

nevertheless, a good stimulant to part with his money. This

appears to be a very ancient tradition in China and Japan--so

ancient that it is continued by the powers that be in Paradise and

Hades, according to a translation called Strange Stories from

My Small Library, a classical Chinese work published in 1679.

The old domestic etiquette of Japan never intrusted to a servant

the making of tea for a guest. It was made by the master of the

house himself; the custom probably growing out of the innate

politeness and courtesy of a people who believe that an honored

visitor is entitled to the best entertainment possible to give him.

As soon as a guest is seated upon his mat, a small tray is set

before the master of the house. Upon this tray is a tiny tea-pot

with a handle at right angles to the spout. Other parts of this

outfit include a highly artistic tea-kettle filled with hot water,

and a requisite number of small cups, set in metal or bamboo

trays. These trays are used for handing the cups around, but the

guest is not expected to take one. The cups being without

handles, and not easy to hold, the visitor must therefore be

careful lest he let one slip through his untutored fingers.

The tea-pot is drenched with hot water before the tea is put in;

then more hot water is poured over the leaves, and soon poured

off into the cups. This is repeated several times, but the hot

water is never allowed to stand on the grounds over a minute.

The Japanese all adhere to the general household custom of the

country in keeping the necessary tea apparatus in readiness. In

the living-room of every house is contained a brazier with live

coals, a kettle to boil water, a tray with tea-pot, cups, and a


Their neighbors, the Chinese, are just as alert; for no matter

what hour of the day it may be, they always keep a kettle of

boiling water over the hot coals, ready to make and serve the

beverage at a moment's notice. No visitor is allowed to leave

without being offered a cup of their tea, and they themselves are

glad to share in their own hospitality.

The Chinese use boiling water, and pour it upon the dry tea in

each cup. Among the better social element is used a cup shaped

like a small bowl, with a saucer a little less in diameter than the

top of the bowl. This saucer also serves another purpose, and is

often used for a cover when the tea is making. After the boiling

water is poured upon the tea, it is covered for a couple of

minutes, until the leaves have separated and fallen to the bottom

of the cup. This process renders the tea clear, delightfully

fragrant, and appetizing.

A variety of other cups are also used; the most prominent being

without handles, one or two sizes larger than the Japanese. They

are made of the finest china, set in silver trays beautifully

wrought, ornate in treatment and design.

A complete tea outfit is a part of the outfitting of every

Ju-bako--picnic-box--with which every Jap is provided when on

a journey, making an excursion, or attending a picnic. The

Japanese are very much given to these out-of-door affairs,

which they call Hanami--Looking at the flowers. No wonder

they are fond of these pleasures, for it is a land of lovely

landscapes and heaven-sent airs, completely in harmony with

the poetic and artistic natures of this splendid people.

Tea-houses--Ch? ya--which take the place of our cafes and

bar rooms, but which, nevertheless, serve a far higher social

purpose, are everywhere in evidence, on the high-roads and

by-roads, tucked away in templed groves and public resorts of

every nature.

Among the Japanese are a number of ceremonial, social, and

literary tea-parties which reflect their courtly and chivalrous

spirit, and keep alive the traditions of the people more, perhaps,

than any other of their functions.

The most important of these tea-parties are exclusively for

gentlemen, and their forms and ceremonies rank among the

most refined usages of polite society. The customs of these

gatherings are so peculiarly characteristic of the Japanese that

few foreign observers have an opportunity of attending them.

These are the tea-parties of a semi-literary or aesthetic character,

and the ceremonious Ch?-no-ya. In the first prevails the easy

and unaffected tone of the well-bred gentleman. In the other are

observed the strictest rules of etiquette both in speech and

behavior. But the former entertainment is by far the most

interesting. The Japanese love and taste for fine scenery is

shown in the settings and surroundings. To this picturesque

outlook, recitals of romance and impromptu poetry add intellectual

charm to the tea-party.

For these occasions the host selects a tea-house located in

well-laid-out grounds and commanding a fine view. In this he lays

mats equal to the number of guests. By sliding the partition and

removing the front wall the place is transformed into an open

hall overlooking the landscape. The room is filled with choice

flowers, and the art treasures of the host, which at other times

are stored away in the fire-proof vault--go down--of his

private residence, contribute artistic beauty and decoration to

the scene. Folding screens and hanging pictures painted by

celebrated artists, costly lacquer-ware, bronze, china, and other

heirlooms are tastefully distributed about the room.

Stories told at these tea-parties are called by the Japanese names

of Ch?-banashi, meaning tea-stories, or Hiti-Kuch?--one

mouth stories, short stories told at one sitting. At times

professional story-tellers are employed. Of these there are two

kinds: Story-Tellers and Cross-Road Tradition Narrators, both

of whom since olden times have been the faithful custodians

and disseminators of native folk-lore and tales.

These professionals are divided into a number of classes, the

most important being the Hanashi-Ka, members of a celebrated

company under a well-known manager, who unites them into

troops of never less than five or more than seven in number.

Such companies are often advertised weeks before their arrival

in a place by hoisting flags or streamers with the names of

the performers thereon. Their programme consists of war-stories,

traditions, and recitals with musical accompaniment. During

the intermission, feats of legerdemain or wrestling fill in

the time and give variety to the entertainment.

These are the leading professional performers. The other classes,

while not held in as high regard by the select, nevertheless have

a definite place in Japanese amusement circles. One of the latter

is the Tsuji-k?-sh?ku-ji. This word-swallower does not

belong to any company, but is a free-lance entertainer. A sort

of has been, he does not, however, rest on his past laurels, but

continues to perform whenever he can obtain an audience--on

the highways, to passers-by, in public resorts and thoroughfares.

Although the Chinese are not so neat in their public habits as

the Japs, still their tea-houses and similar resorts are just as

numerous and popular as they are in the neighboring country.

Perhaps the most interesting caterers in China, however, are the

coolies, who sell hot water in the rural districts. These itinerants

have an ingenious way of announcing their coming by a whistling

kettle. This vessel contains a compartment for fire with a

funnel going through the top. A coin with a hole is placed

so that when the water is boiling a regular steam-whistle

is heard.

Plentiful as tea is in China, however, the poor people there do

not consume as good a quality of the leaf as the same class in

our own country.

Especially is this the case in the northern part of China, where

most of the inhabitants just live, and that is all. There they are

obliged to use the last pickings of tea, commonly known as

brick tea, which is very poor and coarse in quality. It is

pressed into bricks about eight by twelve inches in size, and

whenever a quantity of it is needed a piece is knocked off and

pulverized in a kettle of boiling water. Other ingredients,

consisting of suit, milk, butter, a little pepper, and vinegar, are

added, and this combination constitutes the entire meal of the


Tea in China and Japan is the stand-by of every meal--the

never-failing and ever-ready refreshment. Besides being the

courteous offering to the visitor, it serves a high purpose in the

home life of these peoples; uniting the family and friends in

their domestic life and pleasures at all times and seasons. At

home round the brazier and the lamp in winter evenings, at

picnic parties and excursions to the shady glen during the fine

season, tea is the social connecting medium, the intellectual

stimulant and the universal drink of these far-and-away peoples.

[Illustration of Japanese garden]