history of tea

   significance of tea in Japanese culture   


Tea was described as an antidote in Japanese mythology

The history of tea originates from China. The oldest known account of tea is from an ancient Chinese mythology. In this mythology, people said that the legendary emperor, Shinnou, experimented with many medicinal plants and finally discovered tea as an antidote.

Image by mural painting from Han dynasty - Li Ung Bing, Outlines of Chinese History, Shanghai 1914, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4297558


Eisai, a famous Buddhism monk, brought tea to Kyoto, Japan from Chin

Commons Tea was brought into Japan as a gift from China during the Sung era (A.D. 960-1279). Eisai (A.D. 1141~1215), a Japanese Buddhism monk who started the Rinzai school on Zen Buddhism, studied Buddhism in China. When he returned to Japan, he brought back tea, as it was popular in China and had many health benefits. Eisai gave the tea seeds to farmers in Toganoo and Kousanji in Uji Kyoto. As the originators of the Japanese green tea, farmers in Uji Kyoto established the main production methods and developed the culture of Japanese green tea. These farms in Uji Kyoto exist today as the oldest tea farms in Japan.

Initially, only the aristocracy enjoyed tea. However, over time, tea became popular among others, including monks, who used tea within their training, and Samurai, who began drinking tea after being influenced by the Zen culture.

Image by User PHG on en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia


Japanese green tea became the center of the Japanese culture


At the end of the Sengoku period (A.D. 1580), people began to hold tea ceremonies in newly created tea rooms, using elaborate pottery. In addition to the tea ceremonies reflecting Japanese mentality (referred to as Wabisabi), people used the tea ceremonies to conduct important meetings with their clients. Using tea ceremonies to conduct business stemmed from the position its founder held. Sen Rikyu, founder of the tea ceremony, held important political roles and worked for the rulers such as Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Descendants of Sen Rikyu opened several schools on tea ceremonies, including Omotesenke, Urasenke and Ushanokojisenke (all of which have since been succeeded).


Japanese green tea becomes popular among general citizens, and new forms for tea are born in Uji Kyoto


In Edo era (A.D. 1603~1868), the tea culture in Japan changed dramatically. General citizens began to enjoy Japanese green tea, and people started using tea pots to drink green tea. Tea production expanded to all of Japan, leading to the creation of multiple Japanese green tea cultures throughout the country. Within Uji Kyoto, still the center of Japanese green tea production, Nagatani Souen invented Sen-cha, a new form of green tea made by steaming the tea leaves. Additionally, Gyokuro, the most expensive type of tea, was developed.


Japanese green tea was the second biggest export from Japan


In 1800, the Japanese government opened the country after a long period of isolation and started exporting Japanese green tea all over the world. At that time, silk and Japanese green tea represented more than 80% of Japan’s total exports. Since WW2, the amounts of green tea export have decreased.


Japanese green tea is becoming popular again due to the scientific evidence of its health benefits

The health benefits of Japanese green tea have been supported by various scientific studies. As discovered by Japanese researchers, Japanese green tea has unique components that enable its health benefits. Tsujimura Michiyo found Theanine, an amino acid, and Japanese researchers found three of the four kinds of Catechins in Japanese green tea. These scientific facts have intrigued people whole over the world, leading to increased popularity in green tea.


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