Visit a Japanese Tea Garden
Benjamin Truman describes Japanese Tea Garden at 1894 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. "The tea drinkers at the Fair are having such a chance to revel in their favorite beverage as has never come to them before, and very likely will never come again. This tiny Japanese Tea Garden, that is like a bit out of another world, is thronged all day long with curious people who have drunk tea all their lives and would like to stop for a fleeting moment and enjoy an afternoon tea."
"It may be raining torrents on the rest of the Fair, but the visitor feels confident that it never does here. Nature wouldn't have the heart to. The skies are always blue and the sunny light is ever gleaming on porcelain dragons and antique bronzes, and the little rippling waves are always lapping the sedges along the shore with a happy sound, suggesting distant merrymaking, and over there on the hillside, dappled and flecked with the yellow sunshine, the little gardener is always at work with his exaggerated shears, apparently clipping one blade of grass at a time and never in the least hurrying, for he knows deep in his heart that there is plenty of grass to cut and an endless succession of sunny days to cut it in."
"Over on the porch of the ceremonial tea house they are always making tea, and such strong, rich, fragrant tea it is, too. It goes to the head of the visitor, who sits on a gay fat cushion and sips and sips and nibbles the while on the sugar cakes which accompany it, and afterward goes peering around in the tiny rooms of the doll house that the tea people call home, and finally his ideas get perverted, and everything seems perfectly natural and worthy of imitation. He begins to seethe folly of chairs and tables and longs to go hopping around on the matted floors. And stockings with thumbs on them like mittens look sensible and cool, and as he looks down on his own hot patent leathers he no longer takes any joy or comfort in them."
"There are two tea houses in the little Japanese garden, a big, cool, shady retreat, where the common herd who just drink tea may resort, and the ceremonial tea house, where those to whom tea is a religious conviction may observe their rites. The floor of this latter house is raised some two feet from the ground, and visitors sit along the edge of the open porch and put their teacups on its shining cedar boards and share a Victorian tea party with other garden visitors."
"First, the soft-spoken attendant hops down with a dish of candy. There are two of them, looking like bricks of ice cream for a doll's party. They rest on a transparent square of some shining material that might be a very delicate kind of paper, but it is not; it's a shaving."
"Following the candy comes a rough-looking cup filled an inch deep with liquid tea so startling green that the visitor is almost afraid of it. This is the ieucha, powdered tea—the very best tea leaf grown carefully ground in a little bronze mill and steeped in the cup, and stirred with a bamboo-whisk broom. The rough yellow cup which the visitor looks at so slightingly is antique satsuma, more costly than the finest egg-shell china."
"The attendant brings the tea cup on a silken mat, from which the drinker lifts. This being disposed of, a rather more decorative cup follows, containing tea made from the natural leaves and steeped in a pot. This is called sees-cha, and is pale yellow. A sample package of the tea and a little fan accompany the second cup as a souvenir; this usually causes consternation to the visitor, who does not know how to transport them from the grounds."
"In the ceremonial tea house is a tiny, paneled room, a facsimile of the room where State teas are held in a Japanese house. There are some beautiful bronzes here and an iron raven to be used as an incense burner."
"By the door is a bronze lavatory, where guests wash before entering. The tiny room is spotlessly clean and sweet with its cedar and bamboo and matting."
[From: "History of the World’s Fair" Author Benjamin Truman]