What is a Tenzo?
The word Tenzo holds a very special place in the heart of Tenzo Tea and we chose the name because of its special ancient Tradition and what it means to be an actual Tenzo. In this post, we’ll explain a bit about where the name comes from and why we chose it to represent our brand.
Let’s start with the ancient, literal translation of the word. In Japanese, the word “Tenzo” translates to “Heavenly Monk”.
Why heavenly monk?
Great question - this is because in ancient Buddhist temples there was a special position called a Tenzo who helped with tea ceremonies. The Tenzo was one of six office-holders who, as disciples of the Buddha, guide the monastic community. Amongst these, the Tenzo bore the responsibility of caring for the community’s meals. If you refer to the ancient Zen Monastic book of Standards, “The Tenzo Functions as the one who makes offerings with reverence to the monks” and ideally will help to put the mind of the Way to Work, by serving carefully varied meals appropriate to each occasion and thus allow everyone to practice without hindrance”.
Dating back to ancient times the Tenzo has held an extremely important part in the monastery - they were not your ordinary monk. Instead, they were senior disciples who have roused the enlightened and worked with green tea leaves using a bamboo scooper and bamboo whisk (like these).
And trust us, they are much more than your average “cook”. The Tenzo was one of the most demanding positions in the entire monastery. They would literally prepare every single meal and, specifically, they would work very hard to prepare meals for the “Sesshin,” or the period of extremely intense meditation. The influence of the Tenzo is observed today with bamboo whisks and wooden scoopers being the tools of choice for most matcha brewers.
Overall, Tenzos are one of the most important aspects of ancient Buddhist culture, especially in Japanese society and in relation to tea ceremonies. This is an important reason why we chose the name Tenzo to symbolize our brand.
However, it’s not the only reason. We wanted to be a brand of givers. We didn’t start Tenzo Tea for selfish reasons. We started because we wanted to give back. And much like the ancient Tenzos, we think of ourselves as a team of people giving healthy food and drink to help everyone, regardless of religion, race, or gender the ability to eat healthy food and drink so that they can perform their best day in and day out.
And now I’ll ask you, are you a Tenzo? Are you a giver? Are you someone who wants to help others be their best through clean green caffeine.
If so, join our mission to help the world live their best through the matcha health benefits and remember, for every bag sold, we provide one year of clean water to one person in a need.
Fun Fact: Most of the food that the Tenzos prepared was given to them from the takuhatsu - or a giving of alms to the monks.