The Tea Drinking Rule To Remember When At A Restaurant In Japan

As a visitor in Japan, it's easy to be overwhelmed by customs at the table. There are rules for how to use chopsticks, giving gratitude before a meal, and even how to hold your rice bow! But there is one rule that's easy to remember because it's consistent: use both hands when drinking a beverage, especially when the drink is matcha prepared in a tea ceremony. A Japanese tea cup (or bowl, in the case of matcha) may seem small, but etiquette dictates that you should hold the cup with your right hand and support the bottom of the cup with the left.

Using two hands when holding, giving, or receiving an item is considered excellent manners — a sign of respect for the object and the person who offered it. The practice of holding cups and bowls with both hands conveys cultural respect and appreciation. Holding a teacup with both hands also helps to keep the tea warm for a longer period of time.

Mindful sipping

The focus of a tea ceremony is mindfulness, with attention given to each step in preparing the bowl of matcha – the bowl design may be picked with thought for each guest. Your Japanese host will also orient the bowl so that the design faces you and you can appreciate the beauty of the cup. With the fingers of your left hand under the vessel, you can hold the cup with the right and turn it slightly to see the design from all sides. Paying so much attention to holding the cup allows you to savor the warmth and flavor and experience the tea without rushing.

Whether you're drinking matcha or one of the many other flavorful Japanese teas, take care to hold it properly. The same guideline applies to drinking sake, coffee, or even water — holding the cup with both hands symbolizes a deep level of gratitude towards the beverage and the person serving it. Even in a casual setting, holding your cup carefully is considered polite and graceful and will be appreciated by everyone around you!