The Traditional Korean Tea Ceremony

As we were saying goodbye, the instructor continued to praise our skills. “You did so very good! Very talented at pouring tea, the traditional Korean way!” We sheepishly accepted her acclaim, but I knew what she was really thinking. “Get these clumsy oafs out of my sight, so that I can finally start laughing my ass off!”

Traditional Korean Tea Ceremony

The Tea Ceremony Experience is offered for free, three times a day (except Fridays and Mondays), in the Busan Museum’s Cultural Center. Our instructor, who was geared up in a hanbok (a traditional Korean dress), motioned for us to take seats in front of trays on the ground. Sitting Indian-style doesn’t present a problem for me, but Jürgen’s 6’6″ frame and lanky legs always require a couple minutes of painful twisting. The instructor looked on patiently while he arranged his body into the correct position. “Clearly”, she must have been thinking, “this lesson will present more of a challenge than usual”.

For the next twenty minutes we learned the procedure of a traditional Korean tea ceremony. Every movement is completed very particularly, from raising the napkin off the tea set and folding it, to pouring the water into the teapot. We were expected to be very calm, very exact; our instructor told us that the whole process is a form of meditation. While pouring and drinking the tea, you remain silent and still, concentrating on nothing but the simple tasks at hand, trying to complete them as perfectly as possible.

After three rounds, we were almost able to complete the ceremony without a mistake: grabbing the cup with the wrong hand, pouring out too much water, or laying the napkin on the floor upside-down. Our instructor was pleased enough, and after the torturous spectacle of watching Jürgen disentangle his legs and stand up, we said our goodbyes. I doubt I’ll be working a tea ritual into my daily schedule, but I can certainly appreciate the moment of collected quiet that it provides. And the tea wasn’t bad, either.

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. castro

    Haha, the tea ceremony was definitely a sort of torture for you, Jurgen. You are 6’6″ tall. Your height reminds me of the president of Korean Tourism Organization, Yi Cham (His German name is Bernhard Quandt), who is a naturalized Korean from Germany. He is 6’5″ tall. He was born in
    Bad Kreuznach and graduated from Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz in Germany.  Yi Cham came to Korea 34 years ago and his Korean is more fluent than ordinary Koreans and fluent multi-linguist in 7 languages. He was a TV talent, businessman and adviser for KIA automobiles in Europe. 3 years ago he had been appointed as the president of Korean Tourism Organization and this month he was reappointed for 1 more year. He is very popular in Korea like a K-pop star. 2 Europeans have public popularity in Korea : Guus Hiddink & Yi Cham. Guus Hiddink was the Korean soccer team coach for 2002 world cup and led the under-dog Korean team to the semi-final. He is a Dutch and has the first honorary Korean citizenship. He visits Korea every year and confesses that Korea is my second home country. There is Hiddink foundation in Korea, which takes care of 10 socccer fields for the blind. Yi Cham wrote 3 books in Korean : “I am an authentic Korean, made in Germany”, ” Korea, the country of infinite potentials”, ” What  I am criticizing frankly”. 

  2. Preemie Maboroshi

    The tea ceremony was very lovely. I like the style of the instructor’s outfit. I like the combination of pink, white and turquoise. Hey, and speaking of legs, I guess, Jurgen (bad u — sorry!), your ankle must be doing pretty well lately! You’ve been rather mobile!

  3. tk


  4. YM

    Is it traditional for the Koreans to use a thermal bottle in a tea ceremony? Sounds quite goofy if you ask me.

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