Chabana (tea flowers) is the simple, sublime presentation of flowers for the Japanese tea ceremony. It differs from formal Ikebana in that flowers are not arranged. There are no written rules. Rather, blossoms and greenery are delicately placed, casually positioned in a vase without artifice and in their natural state.
You don’t have to be a practitioner of the tea ceremony to love Chabana. A Chabana composition can be as breathtaking on a desk as on a breakfast tray or even a tatami mat. It can be created in a matter of minutes. In fact, early in its history, it was performed on the spot by tea ceremony hosts before guests.
Tea masters say that Chabana should be assembled with “one’s feet,” meaning that the flowers should be picked, not bought. Only seasonal materials will do, placed with a consideration for how they presented themselves in the garden, hill or field where they were found.
Traditionally, one type of flower is used and often only one bloom, or a bloom and a bud. Avoid showy or overly fragrant blossoms. No tools or kenzan are used, and props or extraneous decorative elements are similarly discouraged.
Transience is as valued in Chabana as it is in Ikebana. Originally, the flowers chosen were meant to last only for the duration of the tea ceremony then discarded. Okay, that might be going a little too far!
Try arranging the flowers in your hand before setting them in the vase, which in chabana is also an object of appreciation. Choose an unpretentious one, but consider its presence, elegance or charm a component.
Most importantly, remember that flowers whether for Chabana or Ikebana reflect the heart, so don’t be afraid to show yours!