To understand the history and where your tea comes from is very important. Why? Because it makes it simply more fun and interesting when drinking the teas. If we go really deep into this topic it will be like a 100 page report so I would like to briefly go over the big picture and go over the main topics and events. I would like to break down the Japanese tea history into the following 3 parts:
1. Start of Japanese Tea
2. Start of Matcha Green Tea Powder
3. Development of Japanese Tea (Tea Ceremony)
Today we would like to start off from:
1.Start of Japanese Tea.
The start of Japanese Tea was in the Heian period (AD794-1185). It was said that the Buddhist monks (Kukai, Saicho, and Eichu) who went to study to China brought back the tea seeds and the tea culture with them.
a) Eichu serves the tea to Emperor Saga
The very first record that was left was when the Buddhist Monk Eichu brought back the tea seed from China and served the Emperor Saga a cup of tea on AD815 . This is the official record that is considered the very first start of Japanese tea in Japan. So almost 1,200 years ago the tea that came from China started the tea history in Japan.
b) Type of teas that was served to Emperor Saga
The tea that was served to Emperor Saga has two theories.
One is the “Hei Cha”, a type of Chinese tea that is steamed and is harden and dried into a circular pattern. Since Emperor Saga admired the Chinese Culture and had tried to incorporate many cultures from China, at that time Hei Cha was popular in China so some think that it may have been this tea that was served. The other is a tea that was infused like Sencha, there were some poetry(Kanshi) that had some record that tea was infused, but unfortunately we have no record that can classify what kind of tea was used.
c) Tea was made in the Imperial Court
Emperor Saga loved the teas and decided to make a tea gardens and do tea processing inside the Imperial Court. Also tea was served in the main events in the Imperial Court called the Kinomidokyo. This event was a Buddhist service where priests were invited inside the Imperial Court in the spring and fall to selectively read Daihannyakyo (Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra) to pray for the peace and security of the nation. The tea that was served was called “Hiki Cha”, which was a sweetened tea.Tea at this time was served to the high society royal families, and we are not sure if it was served to the people in general public. After this occasion there was not much written records left about teas until Eisai’s period(AD1191), the Monk who brought Matcha style tea from China.
It is very interesting that Chinese and Japanese tea comes from the same root, but you can see now there is a big difference between them. Next time, we would like to talk about how the Matcha has started. Yes, how the powdered type teas started:) If there is any questions please feel free to ask anytime.
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