Two words are used in talking about what is often called the Japanese Tea Ceremony:
Chado, Tea Way or Path, the spiritual path that one follows to reach a state of enlightenment, and Chanoyu, hot water for tea, the day-to-day practice that moves one along that path.
Essentially Tea is the attitude and art of hospitality raised to the level of a philosophy and an art form. It involves host and guest giving every consideration to each other so that a beautiful and mutually satisfying moment can be shared.
Chanoyu offers an opportunity to take refuge from the noise and confusion of the world for a brief time, and to become still and simple right down to the core of one’s being. To underscore this idea of passing from one world or plane to another, the tea practitioner is made conscious of passing through a series of stages or thresholds: the wearing of special clothes, garden gates, the purification basin, low doorways, etc.
As a personal practice, Tea can be a means for achieving enlightenment. According to Zen, an eminently practical view of life, enlightenment can be achieved by performing ordinary everyday tasks with reverence and mindfulness.
The practice of tea is a way of affirming and clarifying relationships such as those between teacher and student, host and guest, and guest and guest.
The Way of Tea, like other Ways (the Way of Incense, the Way of Flowers, the Way of the Brush, the Way of the Sword), is directly transmitted from teacher to student--it cannot be learned from a book.
Further, Tea must be learned by body, mind and heart together, fully integrated and acting as one. Athletes sometimes function this way at the top of their game. At a certain point the practitioner becomes his art form, and there is no separation between intent and action.
Tea works as a Way when its principles, attitudes and behaviors are applied outside of the tearoom as well. For the tea student, the practice of Tea will be a model for daily life, and if one strives to live according to its values in daily life, one brings more to the tearoom experience.