History of Japanese Tea

The long tradition of tea and celebration

The origin of Japanese tea is in China, 雲南省. According to the official report, the first use of tea in Japan was thought to be in 815. Eichu who studied Buddism in China introduced tea to the Emperor. In the Emperor’s palace, it was said that there was a tea farm and growing tea leaves. But at that time, how to brew tea was not the same as we do now. In 1191, Yosai a higher monk came back to Japan after studying Buddhism in China. He brought seeds of green tea to Kyoto. At that time, those monks (including Yosai) introduced the Matcha Style tea in the Chinese style, and then later it developed in a Japanese style as we now know.

At that time, Japan was ruled by a samurai government, so method of brewing Japanese tea was changed to the new style (Matcha). And this Matcha Style spread to all the higher samurai. The demand of tea had increased a lot during this period and the number of tea farms had increased, too.

Around 15th century, Juko Murata started the style of Chado ,Sado ( Japanese tea ceremony) which was completed by Rikyu Sen who added the idea of Zen to Sado. Chashitsu (茶室), Tea room was very small but in the room, small group of people started to build special relationships through the Japanese tea ceremony. Especially, during the period of Rikyu Sen, Sado was used for politics. He was in charge of the tea ceremony for Nobunaga Oda (powerful samurai daimyo) and Hideyoshi Toyotomi (preeminent samurai daimyo) but later Rikyu Sen was asked to kill himself by Hideyoshi because they had an argument about the spirit of Sado.

During the Edo period( 1603-1868), the Japanese tea ceremony had been supported by Samurai and higher merchants. On the other hand , a new style of brewing tea was accomplished by cultured men who love Sencha. In 1738, Soen Nagatani invented Nagatani shiki Sencha by steaming leaves and succeeded in brewing Sencha with a better smell and a beautiful colour. Brewing Sencha in a pot style  has spread rapidly. In 1835, Gyokuro was invented in Uji.


Woodwork of Toyohara Chikanobu

In 1853, Japan had to end their  Sakoku-policy, and started to trade openly and tea had became the second largest export. In 1924, Masataro Miura discovered that Japanese green tea contained plenty of Vitamin C.

During World War Ⅱ, many tea farms had to stop growing tea and changed to growing other crops for the government. After the war, the demand for the Japanese tea was increased for the American market. With the growth of the Japanese economy, in 1975, the amount of growing tea was at its peak.

In Japan, more and more young people enjoy a bottled Japanese green tea rather than leaf tea because of the easiness. This is a shame. On the other hand, with the increase of interest in Japanese health foods, Japanese tea has become more popular in other countries.