Robiraki 2019

15 of us met at the Warsaw practice space for a tea gathering celebrating both the opening of new tea and the sunken hearth.

The guests arrived and waited in the machiai (waiting room) where they were served a little something warm to drink

while some last minute preparations took place in the kitchen.

Scroll read “zuiki koudou ni mitsu” -an atmosphere of mystery fills the (temple) hall

Next the guests entered the tearoom, did they notice the shiny wet kettle?

Ula-sensei prepared the charcoal in the sunken hearth.

The fire is set in order to quickly heat the water for tea, To give it time to do so the guests left the room for a quick meal.

A light meal was served. This description is from Ania-sensei’s Facebook post, I added some details in parentheses: “1. okayu, rice gruel with Polish groats, served with some grated ginger and Polish marinated plum; 2. misoshiru (that’s the miso soup) with pumpkin, potatoes, leeks, enoki (a type of mushroom) and black sesame; 3. fukiyose (um, Autumn’s treasures blown together into a pile) made of: lotus root mochi, shiitake, carrots in the shape of momiji (maple leaves), parsnip in the shape of pine needles, grilled zucchini and a walnut cooked with soy sauce and sugar; 4. cucumber and radish salad, with radish leaves and dressing made of lime juice and ginger juice.” Delicious, thank you Ania!

We let everyone escape to the table to rest their legs for a bit before heading back in for tea.

The last part of the meal is a sweet. This is one of the traditional sweets served at this event, called zenzai. It’s essentially sweetened adzuki bean soup with balls of mochi (sweet rice flour).

Re-entering the room for thick tea, the scroll has been replaced by flowers and the container holding the tea is in place in front of the daisu (utensil stand). You can tell the water is good and hot.

Ula enters with two of the three bowls used for the thick tea.

The guests drink their tea and then pass the empty bowls around to appreciate them.

The hosts snuck into the room and joined for the thick tea, so we ended up having four bowls circling around either being drank from or looked at artistically/esthetically.

After thick tea we removed the sliding doors and watched as people made each other thin tea within a group form called kagetsu. In addition to Warsaw we had visiting guests from Krakow and Minsk and it’s always heartwarming to practice with people who are excited enough to travel for tea.

As they randomly chose who makes and who drinks the tea the rest of us had some thin tea outside the tearoom as well.

A second round of kagetsu, just for good measure. In this form for five participants, only four bowls of tea are made, so you get better odds if you do the whole thing over again.

Finally, during the last kagetsu, Szymon led some warigeiko (parts of tea preparation) with guests who are currently enrolled in the Warsaw University tea course.

All in all it was a fine day, full of great tea and food in the company of wonderful people. Thanks to everyone who could make it out, hosts and guests alike, it couldn’t have happened without you all.

2019 Firsts


This is the first time we’ve let you know about what’s going on in Warsaw this year, so here is a collection of some of our firsts in January 2019.

First Tea on New Year’s Morning

After the eight of us gathered in the dark the guests entered the tea room at 7 AM to welcome the new year.

The room was prepared for laying the charcoal and once all the guests were settled the fire was built.

Next we shared some food.

When finished we left the room.

After the hosts prepared the flowers and thick tea we re-entered and shared both thick and thin tea.

We’ve been doing this intimate gathering at sunrise on the 1st for a few years now and it always fills us with warmth of spirit and inspirational energy for the coming year. Thanks to everyone who made this a special morning.

Hatsugeiko – first practice of the new year

Ula-sensei has been making sure everyone has a bite to eat before tea lately, even at keiko. So a small tray of food was served.

Then we continued with our regular practice of various thick and thin tea.

Thanks to our dedicated students for their continued diligence and patience.

Hatsudate – New Year celebration at Warsaw University

Every year the students of the Urasenke tea course at Warsaw University get to drink thick tea in celebration of the new year.

It’s a nice chance for them to take part in some aspects of the new year celebrations.

Afterwards several of the group’s regular students got to take their first tries at daisu temae.

It was great having them come to help with the university students.

Hatsudate at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence

For the opening of the celebratory year commemorating 100 years of open diplomatic relations between Japan and Poland we were asked to make tea for the guests in attendance at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence.

We made tea simultaneously in the tea room and at the misonodana table.

It was a little too busy to take any pictures while making tea, but here is most of our team.

It’s always a pleasure to work with the Ambassador and the staff of the Embassy.

Hatsudate for our group and friends

Each year it’s our pleasure to invite those whom we work with and rely on for a new year celebration, in the tea fashion.

Staying up late preparing food and sweets is a regular task before any tea gathering, especially when you’re serving many dishes to many people.

Ganmodoki (imitation goose – because it’s tofu based) for the soup. The guests, especially the Japanese ones, seemed to enjoy it. Thank you Ania!

Thanks to everyone for all the help.

The first seki, or group of guests, doing haiken of the tea utensils.

Guests enjoying some sake with their food.

“Repairing” the fire for the second seki.

Sweets for the thin tea, pines and cranes.

Yokoe Masato-sensei was a guest during the second seki, but had come from giving shamisen lessons and was so kind to play a few songs for us.

Once we served all our invited guests we did the same for ourselves under the full moon.

Looking forward to many more tea events.

Have a great year everyone!

Summer Tea Workshop 2014

So many events skipped, I’ll try to fill in the blanks over time.

Let’s talk about the Warsaw Summer Workshop while it’s still fresh!

After a welcoming dinner in old town Warsaw

After a welcoming dinner in old town Warsaw

This year, somehow, the word about our workshop continued to spread and we were privileged to receive participants from many different places. Of course some of our own members were here to host six members of the Krakow group along with one from Hungary, two from Finland, another Finn who came all the way from Kyoto, and an American from London. All together about 19.3 participants (that’s including 7 month old Gabriela and our fantastic cook/masseur Marcin).

Many of the participants

Many of the participants

One reason we were able to draw a member from Japan is because we focused heavily on practicing the shichijishiki this year. The shichijishiki are a set of group forms devised in the 18th century in part to enlist many participants in one practice and based somewhat on the seven practices in Zen temples.

Each day started with light exercise to wake up,

wake up

wake up





some meditation to focus,


meditation introduction

and some food for sustenance before delving into all the forms.



These group forms, like any other, require repetition in order to learn; however, they require a knowledge of all the basic forms as well as having a sufficient number of people in order to practice them.

charcoal form

basic charcoal form

Each night we did our best to try out other aspects of chanoyu, making Japanese sweets, making tea scoops and making kobukusa.

Rikyu manju

Rikyu manju

Goldfish made of sweet bean paste swimming over sweet sesame sand.

Goldfish made of sweet bean paste swimming over sweet sesame sand.

bending chashaku

bending chashaku

The first day, as always, we began by refreshing the basic elements of tea practice, sitting, standing, walking, bowing, and preparing the utensils. We then discussed the history of the group forms and talked a little about each one.

you can never practice walking too much

you can never practice walking too much

That afternoon we practiced the most common of the group forms, Kagetsu. Kagetsu is a form that can be practiced in many different ways and in which each participant must be ready to change places with any other to do whatever task is at hand.

sumi tsuki kagetsu

sumi tsuki kagetsu

koicha tsuki kagetsu

koicha tsuki kagetsu

The second day was spent at Kaian, the Japanese tea house at Warsaw University. There we practiced more Kagetsu, specifically the types that can be carried out in a 4 1/2 mat room. We also did a little practice in the 2 3/4 mat room for some close tea sharing with each other.

drawing for the initial roles

drawing for the initial roles (in the huge corridor)

4.5 mat kagetsu

4.5 mat kagetsu

daime koicha

daime koicha

On the third day we hit the more difficult forms, or at least those less practiced. We started with Shaza, a form where each person takes care of a different task; arranging flowers, making the charcoal fire, preparing incense, making the thick tea, and making the thin tea.

incense preparation in Shaza

incense preparation in Shaza

Next we practiced Chakabuki, a form where each person drinks two different thick teas, the consumers are informed of the names of each. Then three more thick teas are prepared randomly and each person must guess which tea they are drinking, the first, second, or a third mystery tea.

bringing in the "ballots"

bringing in the “ballots”

tasting the tea

tasting the tea

showing the tea type to the record keeper

showing the tea type to the record keeper

In the afternoon we practiced Senyū. This form is somewhat similar to Shaza above except each element is modified and/or expanded on: instead of one person arranging the flowers everybody takes a turn doing it, the charcoal fire is done honsumishomo style so the guest actually only puts in the charcoal, two types of incense are prepared, thick tea is made for everyone, and the thin tea is carried out as in Kagetsu.

charcoal element of Senyū

charcoal element of Senyu

Of course anytime there was extra time we tried to fit in an extra Kagetsu.

One the last day we practiced a form called Ichi-ni-san which enables each participant to give a review of the tea form done for them by the host.

checking her "score"

checking her “score”

We also practiced Kazucha, a form wherein each participant will have a sweet, make tea and drink tea all in random order. We then used this form in our closing tea gathering that afternoon.

Kazucha beginning bow

Kazucha beginning bow

in the midst of Kazucha

in the midst of Kazucha

The closing chakai started with the charcoal, an excellent bowl of thick tea, and then everyone participating in Kazucha for their thin tea.

Chakai set-up for charcoal

Chakai set-up for charcoal

Koicha L

Koicha L

koicha center

koicha center

koicha R

koicha R

Kazucha during chakai 1

Kazucha during chakai 1

Kazucha during chakai

Kazucha during chakai 2

We were busy from early morning to late night everyday but we still tried to have a little party to wrap up the event. As usual, most everyone was too tired to notice. That’s how we can tell if people had a good workshop, when they pass out when it is over.

sleep party

wild party

Thanks to everyone for making the workshop another special event and for coming together to share tea with us here in Warsaw. See you next year!


-Extra shots of the kiddo-

These are my tatami

These are my tatami

Hey, what are you doing to my foot?

Hey, what are you doing to my foot?

Ready to work out

Ready to work out

I see you think it's  your turn to talk again Dad

I see you think it’s your turn to talk again Dad

Yes, give me the talking stick

Yes, give me the talking stick

Maybe I should do the talking

Maybe I should do the talking

No no no bring it back I have things to say, Mom let go

No no no bring it back I have things to say, Mom let go

I'm here for my koicha

I’m here for my koicha

Visit to Egypt

Our friend Ahmad of Chanoyu Arabia relocated to Cairo and after some settling in invited us to share tea with the people there.

red and bent pyramids

Ahmad making koicha

We held practices for thirteen days and were also able to travel to Tunis, a pottery town in Fayoum, about three hours drive from Cairo, where we were able to show the local artists how we use ceramics in chanoyu.

The potters of Tunis

tea for the potters

The Cairo tea group has a long history and is currently trying to get more active, and they showed it, many members came several times during our stay.

ryakubon practice

fukusa folding

guests all around

There are of course Egyptian people studying tea as well as Japanese, we also met other people from diverse regions all living in Cairo that Ahmad has been getting involved in tea.

five countries represented

Some people are drawn to chado from very young ages. Noor, commonly known as Hanto-chan is eagerly mastering every aspect.


The trip was wonderful, the people friendly and receptive, tea everyday, warmer weather, a fantastic and giving host. A truly magical experience we hope to repeat soon. Thanks Ahmad and everyone in Cairo.

Happy tea drinkersThe Host and his guests

Annual Summer Workshop

This was already our 6th Summer workshop, how did that happen?

Every year we have great participants and a lot of fun.
We were happy to have several members up from Kraków and we always look forward to getting to share in more activities with those friends.   Senshinkai, Urasenke Kraków

The schedule for the four days began each morning with zazen (sitting meditation) followed by a short session of group exercise, breakfast, a few hours of practice, lunch, then a few more hours of practice followed by more zazen, dinner and some evening activities. It was tough but many participants sleep on site so the 6:30 meditation isn’t too bad, right fellow non-morning-people?

We all began with the basics (warigeiko)

This year we had the ability to focus on sumi temae (that’s preparing and burning the charcoal)

Of course there was no shortage of practicing the tea forms either

Everyone was able to work on forms they chose each day based on a rough schedule

Every night we made sweets for use the next day, additionally each evening had a different activity for the participants.

The first night we practiced how to wear Japanese clothes, especially obi (belt) tying for kimono and yukata. One night we had our friend from the Japanese Embassy come and give a workshop on furoshiki, including a lot of hands on training.

The third night we made chashaku (bamboo tea scoops) which turned out remarkably well for most everyone’s first attempt.

We averaged 12 participants a day and just about everyone had a chance to do sumi

Once or twice we practiced sumi tsuki kagetsu, a group form including charcoal and tea

By splitting up from time to time we were able to include temae from many levels and using different utensils.

After lunch on the last day Damian and Marta hosted a tea gathering for the rest of us. They prepared a little more food (Damian’s excellent creation) along with refreshing sweets (wonderfully creative by Marta) before serving thick and thin tea in a combined form called tsuzuki usucha.

After all those days of work it was almost relaxing the last evening as we all celebrated the conclusion of the workshop. Simultaneously Ula and Aaron packed for a trip leaving the next morning and several participants finished carving their tea scoops. It was non-stop and a great time. Now what about these requests for a Winter Workshop?

Rome Tea Seminar

For the last week of September, Misia, Ula and Aaron were fortunate enough to be able to attend a chanoyu workshop in Italy near Rome.

We first visited the Urasenke center in Rome which has a nice big reception room and three tea rooms for both practice and tea gatherings, a spacious 6 mat, a 4.5 mat and a three mat.

There we met other members of the seminar and headed out to the beautiful Benedictine monastery of Saint Vincenzo.

The seminar was led by Nojiri Michiko-sensei who has been the resident instructor in Rome for more than forty years. She has a distinct teaching style based heavily on proper posture both during meditation and temae (tea making procedures). To that end, every day began and ended with meditation (and a lot of instruction on how to sit).

Just after morning meditation

Our practice space

Fully stocked preparation area

During the daily practice, between zazen sessions, the participants were divided into smaller groups working through the entire Urasenke curriculum of temae. But, the focus of the teaching always centered on how to be rather than how to do.


The attendees averaged around forty and traveled from such places as Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, UK, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Czech, Japan, and even Poland.

Nojiri-sensei and her teaching assistants were teaching in as many languages as countries represented.

Everyday we burnt charcoal produced in Germany (usually cut the night before use) and did sumi temae (charcoal laying procedures) so every night we got to practice three or four haigata (ash forms).


Ula got to make tea for Nojiri-sensei and Chantal-sensei on the last day

Nojiri-sensei can be funny and strict, has a lot of energy and is very animated in her descriptions and overall teaching style. She is also quite generous with her utensils as well as her personality, we were shown a couple of tea bowls from the 15th (current) and 14th generations of Raku and then allowed to use them in our temae.

On the last day Nojiri-sensei made a bowl of tea for every participant.

The atmosphere and instruction as well as the food and companionship all added up to a wonderful seminar. We hope to continue having great relations with everyone we met and retain all that we learned. Thanks to Nojiri-sensei and everyone involved.

Colorado Practice

We had the great pleasure to meet and practice with old friends and new.

We met in four different tea spaces and had the chance to run through an entire chaji practice with Ulrich Haas-sensei while he visited from Germany.

Acting as host, Roy fills the tsukubai.


Mike calls the guests back for tea by ringing a gong.

The guests listen to the gong and re-enter the tea room for the second half of the tea gathering.

The guests entering the room for the thick and thin tea.


More practice

Mike in Roy’s tea room

Tom’s tea room

Lots of practice

Never can get too much of a good thing.