Asian Tea Party - Oriental Foods
Rosie in Los Angeles, California, USA
A flowering tea, Blossoming in a glass pot Come, enjoy with friends.
The invitation was lovely: delicate pastel paper with green vellum covering the details, tied on with green organza ribbon, a raised green butterfly and the above haiku over green textured paper. It is my new favorite. Accompanying the invitation was a small set of paper doors, locked with a ribbon around the cha character. Behind the doors was a scene of three women in a Japanese tearoom. The card inserted before the scene said: Chado The Way of Tea. Research for this party was a homecoming for me. A warm cup in hand, a soft earthy scent in the air, a smooth herbal taste on my tongue, a vision of tinted water rippling at my movement, in silence or in conversation with friends, my soul already knew the principles of tea: Harmony, Respect, Purity, Tranquility.
Tea has always been able to ground me and bring me peace. Learning about the art of the Japanese Tea Ceremony put into words truths I had understood since I was small. The Way of Tea is a Law of Nature, like Galileo's Law of Falling Bodies or Newton's Law of Gravity. The four principles of tea are facts that support this Law, like Einstein's principle of constancy or Archimedes principle of buoyancy are facts of nature. Harmony, Respect, Purity, Tranquility. This party came together in graceful harmony as one event flowed into another with no awkward moments. Two little hostesses dressed in silken Asian garb welcomed their guests with a bow, inviting them to remove their shoes at the entrance. They learned, Hello my name is and other expressions in Japanese, while they waited for all the guests to arrive. Then they paired up for a Sudoku challenge, working as teams to complete gentle Sudoku puzzles.
When all of the guests arrived and were introduced, the children gathered in the tearoom. The setting was simple. Wooden furniture, a bench and a coffee-style game table, set in an open area on a bare wooden floor formed the tearoom. The tearoom was decorated in paper lanterns strung from the ceiling. The table was set with pink paper placemats, red astromeria in low glass vases, leaf-shaped pastel-colored hashioki (chopstick rests), pink Hello Kitty paper-wrapped chopsticks, butterfly paper coasters and small origami foxes.
In the tearoom, each guest selected a flowering tea and placed it in a small glass teapot. The children watched in wonder as their teas flowered, leaves unfolding before them in the hot water (poured by an adult). The adults shared the view of tearoom from a dining table set back from the children with a flowering tea of their own in a larger glass teapot. The children learned to sit seiza on their tatami (substituted with sofa pillows) and were instructed in certain customs, such as: Pouring tea for each other and not selves, Using the oshibori, wet cloth, to wash hands not faces, Using rice as a palate cleanser, not a main dish, and Placing handkerchiefs on laps in place of napkins.
After observing the flowering tea unfold and familiarizing themselves with the table setting and customs, the children were taken on a tour of the craft areas. They would return to these areas between courses to make a mini Zen rock garden, paint a ceramic tea cup, saucer and spherical jewel box, make origami stars, fortune tellers and foxes, and best of all repeatedly fold origami boxes to fill with water and drop smashingly from a balcony. Children were entertained initially at the meal by eating with chopsticks and drinking soup from bowls. But soon into it, the children began to enjoy the food, clearing their plates and requesting second servings.
The meal consisted of four courses: First course ramen, edamame, rice and green tea; Second course sliced veggies, small salads, egg halves, rice and white tea; Third course lemon sorbet, fresh berries with whipped cream and flowering tea; and Fourth course mochi ice cream, pocky chocolate covered sticks, dessert sushi and mint tea. Food preparation required the most careful planning and time. The ramen was garnished with flower-shaped carrots and snow peas. The rice was garnished with kumquats from my garden. The eggs were halved and decorated to resemble little white mice with string cheese tails and carrot ears. The sliced vegetables (radish, celery, carrot and snow pea) were arranged on a bed of jicama like sashimi. The cucumber salad had flower-shaped carrots and a lemon slices. The courses were served on small dishes and bowls. The dessert sushi amazed the crowd with rice crispy treats covered in sour tape/ Swedish fish and dessert maki rolls of green fruit rollups wrapped around rice crispy treats surrounding gummy worm/red vine centers.
As usual, there were some activities planned that didn't take place. At this party the children were supposed to: Teach each other moves from Aikido and Tae Kwan Do and perform a demonstration; Make origami frogs that hop and race them across the table top; and Use bamboo fans to perform a self-choreographed fan dance. But, the activities did not fall into the flow of the party. This is typical. I always have events planned that do not take place at my parties because I don't want those moments of boredom or wild rampaging chaos and loss of control because I can't think of what to do next. I always have something extra planned.
The children went home with arms loaded. Each child took home a box of homemade dessert sushi wrapped in cellophane, a glass teapot - rinsed and placed back in its box, a Zen rock garden, a painted teacup, saucer, and jewel box, an origami fox and other origami created at the party, and an Asian Garden gift bag of favors, including: A gift box with a wind-up sushi toy, A fresh set of Hello Kitty chopsticks, A bamboo fan painted with Sakura, cherry blossoms, A delicately decorated sticky notepad, Thin magnets matching the gift box and sticky notes, Bamboo bookmarks, A scroll of Japanese translations and Chado teachings, A box of origami star paper and a box of origami crane paper, A set of tiny colored pencils with a notepad (Cinnamoroll Sanrio character), and A photograph I took of the child interacting with others at the party. When asked if they could take home their tea flowers, I replied, Why not. The tea was Numi, and the instructions said each flower could be steeped two to three more times. I decided to send them all home with their tea flowers too.
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