10 Best Kyoto Tea Ceremony Experiences & What To Expect

By Emily Suvannasankha
Updated: February 27, 2024

Kyoto is a Japanese city with a rich history and deep food culture. But for travelers yearning to learn about the culture of Japanese aesthetics and feel the historical magic of Kyoto firsthand, one type of hands-on experience comes to mind: a traditional Kyoto tea ceremony. 

So, if you're searching for the best tea ceremony in Kyoto, look no further! First, let's take a deeper look at the fascinating history and rituals of the Japanese tea ceremony. Then, get ready to sip some matcha tea, because we have 5 Kyoto tea ceremony experiences that will knock your geta off.

What is Japanese tea ceremony?

Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Japanese tea ceremony, or "Way of Tea," is the cultural practice of preparing and appreciating matcha: the refined, powdered green tea. This quiet, beautiful ritual embodies 16th century tea master Sen Rikyu's four principles of tea ceremonies: harmony, respect, purity, and silence (wa-kei-sei-jaku). As the Japanese expression goes, each tea ceremony is a "perfect encounter," or "once in a lifetime experience" (ichi-go ichi-e), a unique meeting of souls that must be cherished.

Formal tea ceremonies can last hours but are often abbreviated today and typically take place in a tatami room or tea house. Different schools of tea follow slightly different practices, but tea ceremonies generally involve making precise hand movements and appreciating every aspect of the experience, right down to the intricacies of the dishware chosen for the guest.

Basic tea ceremony etiquette and rules

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Make note of basic tea ceremony etiquette and rules before heading to your experience:

  1. Wear kimono or conservative clothing. Traditionally, one wears a kimono at a Japanese tea ceremony, and your host will appreciate it! But modest Western-style clothing is perfectly acceptablejust be sure to forgo strong perfumes that distract from the experience and jewelry that could damage the equipment.
  2. Sit in traditional Japanese seiza, kneeling with your backside resting on your feet, if you can. For people unaccustomed to sitting this way, seiza can be painful! So if your legs begin to hurt or fall asleep, switching to sitting cross-legged is generally acceptable, especially for foreigners.
  3. Turn the tea cup clockwise before drinking. For hygiene, each time the cup is passed, the new person must turn the cup slightly and drink from a different side of the cup. This also lets spectators see all sides of the beautiful, likely hand-picked pottery used at the tea ceremony.
  4. Don't drink from the front of the tea cup. Often, the front of the cup carries a special design meant to be shown off to the rest of the guests as you drink. So when turning the cup, try to avoid drinking from the front!
  5. Avoid taking big gulps of tea. The professionally-made green tea at tea ceremonies is meant to be delicately savored, not chugged! Take about three sips and enjoy the experience slowly.
  6. Say "osakini" to your neighbor before eating Japanese wagashi sweets or drinking tea. This simple phrase means "pardon me for going before you," and it is one of the most important rules of a polite tea ceremony. The order in which tea and sweets are passed around is the same every time, so you'll hear this quite often!

9 Best Kyoto Tea Ceremony Experiences

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Here are the best Kyoto tea ceremony experiences that we highly recommend for lovers of Japanese traditional culture.

  1. Tea ceremony in a 100-year-old Kyoto machiya
  2. Tea ceremony near a Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage Site
  3. Tea ceremony in Kyoto in a Japanese painter's garden
  4. Japanese tea ceremony and tea-making experience in Kyoto
  5. Tea ceremony and tea-making experience with sencha
  6. Kyoto tea ceremony and lesson with sweets
  7. Kyoto tea ceremony near Fushimi Inari Shrine
  8. Uncovering Uji: Premium tea, shrines spirituality in Kyoto
  9. All about Japanese tea: Tour of Uji, Kyoto

1. Tea ceremony in a 100-year-old Kyoto machiya

Japanese Tea Ceremony Kyoto

Immerse yourself in the vibrant tea culture of Kyoto, one of the first places in Japan to cultivate this cherished tradition. Inside a century-old machiya (traditional townhouse), you'll experience an authentic tea ceremony guided by Hiromi, a dedicated tea master with over 30 years of Urasenke school experience. Witness the meticulous preparation of matcha tea, learn the history and process in simplified terms, and even try your hand at making your own cup under Hiromi's gentle guidance. Unlike traditional ceremonies, this experience offers comfortable seating, allowing everyone to fully embrace the tranquility and beauty of the tea ritual.

Ready to unlock the secrets of the Japanese tea ceremony and create lasting memories in the heart of Kyoto? Book your tea ceremony experience.

2. Tea ceremony near a Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage Site

Japanese Tea Ceremony Kyoto

Near the serene rock garden of Ryoan-ji, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies a true hidden gem: a traditional tea house boasting over a century of history. Immerse yourself in the heart of Kyoto's eastern district, where Zen practices flourish. 

Embark on a private tea ceremony, a perfect introduction to the essence of Zen culture. Book your tea ceremony experience.

3. Tea ceremony in Kyoto in a Japanese painter's garden

Japanese Tea Ceremony Kyoto

Step into a world where art, nature, history, and culture converge at a traditional tea ceremony led by Junko Sophie Kakizaki. Descendant of a samurai family with a rich 900-year legacy, Ms. Kakizaki embodies the dedication and elegance that define Japanese culture. Her expertise, recognized by esteemed media like Vogue, shines through as she guides you through the intricate beauty of the tea ceremony.

This experience isn't just about a cup of comforting tea; it's a journey into the heart of Kyoto's tradition and a path to finding inner peace.

Are you ready to embark on this unique cultural encounter? Book your tea ceremony experience.

4. Japanese tea ceremony and tea-making experience in Kyoto

Japanese Tea Ceremony Kyoto

Savor the rich and vibrant flavors of organic Uji matcha, meticulously prepared by your host, Rie, before engaging in a hands-on encounter with tea-making yourself. This immersive experience allows you to truly understand the art form. 

Rie's expertise and dedication are widely recognized, receiving acknowledgment from esteemed sources like the House of Representatives and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Under her guidance, embark on a memorable journey, leaving with a newfound appreciation for this beautiful art form and lasting memories of your time in Japan.

Make time in your schedule for this deep cultural immersion in Kyoto. Book your tea ceremony experience.

5. Tea ceremony and tea-making experience with sencha

Japanese Tea Ceremony Kyoto

Enter the captivating world of sencha tea with Kiyohiko-san, a seasoned tea master. Witness his meticulous demonstration, where he carefully measures leaves, heats water to precise temperatures, and expertly prepares the tea with a delicate touch, all while revealing the history and significance behind each step.

Become an active participant in this time-honored tradition as you learn the intricate art of preparing and serving sencha under Kiyohiko-san's expert guidance. Senchado, a highly ritualistic and refined practice, emphasizes the careful brewing and serving of sencha, made from steamed tea leaves. It revolves around precise techniques, meticulous attention to detail, and a deep appreciation for the aesthetics and flavors of the tea.

Once you've mastered the art, savor the fruits of your labor. Enjoy your freshly made sencha alongside wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets, creating a delightful harmony of textures and flavors.

Say yes to sencha and book your tea ceremony experience. This one is especially good if you want to try another tea besides matcha. 

6. Kyoto tea ceremony and lesson with sweets 

Japanese Tea Ceremony Kyoto

Under the guidance of a licensed Japanese tea ceremony instructor, experience the intricate process of preparing matcha tea using genuine tools like the bamboo whisk. Learn the essential etiquette and skills, putting your newfound knowledge into practice as you create your own perfect cup.

Adding a delightful touch are carefully chosen Japanese sweets from a historically renowned shop specializing in tea ceremony treats. These meticulously crafted, gluten-free, and vegan sweets offer a delightful complement to the experience. As a cherished souvenir, you'll receive a captivating booklet delving deeper into the tea ceremony's intricacies, allowing you to continue exploring this revered cultural practice beyond your visit. And to ensure these memories last a lifetime, capture the essence of the experience through stunning photographs.

Claim your cup and sweets and book your tea ceremony experience. 

7. Kyoto tea ceremony near Fushimi Inari Shrine

Japanese Tea Ceremony Kyoto

Led by a passionate guide fluent in English, delve into the history and traditions of tea ceremonies and gain hands-on experience.

Your journey begins in a tranquil waiting room, where you'll receive a warm welcome and an introduction to tea ceremony etiquette. (Take a moment to stroll through the picturesque Japanese garden before entering the tea room!)

Delight your senses with a taste of traditional Japanese sweets as you witness a mesmerizing ceremonial matcha demonstration. You'll then learn the art of preparing your own matcha tea using a traditional bamboo whisk, creating a perfectly frothy beverage. After savoring your creation, take a moment to relax and appreciate the serenity of the experience.

To further deepen your immersion, you'll be guided through the making of traditional wagashi sweets, a delightful complement to your tea experience. 

This unforgettable journey will leave you with a newfound appreciation for Japanese culture. Book your tea ceremony experience.

8. Tea tasting and tea ceremony in Uji, Kyoto

Japanese Tea Ceremony Kyoto

Escape the vibrant pulse of central Kyoto and delve into the serene world of Uji, a charming district just a short train ride away. Here, the Uji River winds its way through rolling hills, creating a landscape steeped in tranquility. Unlike the bustling tourist hotspots of Kyoto, Uji offers a slower pace and a unique perspective that leaves visitors feeling truly fulfilled.

Embrace the serenity of Uji and embark on an unforgettable tea tour with a local expert guide. Book your Uji tour with tea ceremony experience.

10. Japanese tea masterclass and tea ceremony in Uji, Kyoto

Japanese Tea Ceremony Kyoto

Are you a green tea aficionado itching to explore a special corner of Kyoto that's known for its rich tea culture? Then this tea masterclass is definitely for you! Embark on a five-hour journey through the gorgeous historical district of Uji, making stops frequently to duck into a thousand-year-old tea shop, visit a tea farmer's shop, experience an authentic Japanese tea ceremony, and even pay respects at one of Japan's oldest shrines.

For lunch, unwind and enjoy chasoba (green tea soba noodles) at a famous Kyoto tea house. The unique point of this tour is its eclecticism; perfect for those who want to explore tranquil Uji, absorb tea history from countless fascinating locations, and appreciate Japanese green tea in every way possible in one day. 

Get one step closer to becoming a Japanese tea pro and book your Uji tour with tea ceremony experience.

FAQ on Kyoto Tea Ceremony


What are the basic tea ceremony steps?

If this is your first tea ceremony in Japan, you might be wondering what are your experience will look like. Here are the basic tea ceremony steps:

  1. Clean the tea room, arrange tea garden, and prepare food (optional) before guests arrive
  2. Have guests wash hands to cleanse them of the "dust" of the outside world
  3. Guests take turns passing around and eating Japanese wagashi sweets (opt.)
  4. Warm up tea bowl (chawan) and soak bamboo whisk (chasen) in water
  5. Use cloth to gracefully clean and purify tea tools in front of guests
  6. Put two scoops of matcha powder into tea bowl with bamboo tea ladle (chashaku)
  7. Scoop 60 ml of hot water into tea bowl with bamboo water ladle (hishaku)
  8. Stir well with bamboo whisk until tea is slightly foamy
  9. Place finished tea in front of guest; both host and guest bow politely
  10. Guest turns tea bowl 90° clockwise and takes slow sips, appreciating the tea
  11. First guest passes tea bowl on to the next guest, who turns it 90° clockwise and sips, and so on
  12. Once everyone has enjoyed the tea, host cleans tea equipment again
  13. Guests politely inspect the beauty of all aspects of tea tools, room, and ceremony, bowing on exit

Why is Kyoto famous for Japanese tea ceremonies?

Kyoto is renowned for its deep-rooted tea culture and historical significance in the development of the Japanese tea ceremony. The city is home to prestigious tea schools, traditional teahouses, and ancient tea gardens that offer an authentic experience for tea enthusiasts.

What can I expect during a Japanese tea ceremony in Kyoto?

When participating in a Japanese tea ceremony in Kyoto, you can expect to be greeted with warm hospitality, witness meticulous preparation of matcha by a skilled tea master, and savor the tea in a serene setting. The ceremony is a harmonious blend of aesthetics, etiquette, and mindfulness.

Japanese Tea Ceremony Kyoto

How long does a typical Japanese tea ceremony in Kyoto last?

A traditional Japanese tea ceremony in Kyoto can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the type of ceremony and the number of guests. The experience is unhurried, allowing participants to immerse themselves in the beauty and tranquility of the ritual.

Can I participate in a Japanese tea ceremony in Kyoto as a foreign visitor?

Absolutely! Many tea houses in Kyoto welcome foreign visitors to experience the art of the Japanese tea ceremony. While some basic knowledge of tea ceremony etiquette is helpful, the tea masters are often accommodating and happy to guide participants through the ceremony with grace and patience.

Looking for more activities in Japan's former capital? Check out these best food tours in Kyoto or our post on the best things to do in Kyoto!

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Emily Suvannasankha
Masquerading as a grad student in Linguistics, Emily can typically be found counting the minutes ‘til her next peach chūhai. She has two years in Nagoya before her need for jumbo peanut butter sends her crawling back to the US.
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