HISTORY OF GREEN TEA IN JAPAN

Origin Story of Japanese Matcha Green Tea and CHADO

Tea took 800 years to take root in Japan, with fascinating twists and turns.

A Spiritual Beginning

Chinese Buddhist monks first brought tea plants and seeds to Japan in 729 A.D. (Tang Dynasty) at the invitation of Japanese Emperor Shoku to attend his royal highness’ imperial tea service. One hundred Zen Buddhists then traveled to Kyoto, as the image on the right shows an ancient artifact commemorating this historic tea event.

Emperor Shoku loved his tea, and the royal circle enjoyed this divine beverage within the well-guarded walls of the palace.

Nearly 500 years later, in 1191, Eisai, a Japanese Buddhist monk, returned home from his second trip to China and brought back Green tea seeds and a vigorous tea-drinking habit.

Credited as the Father of Japanese Tea tradition, Eisai was the authored the book “Kissa Yōjōki,” or “Drinking Tea for Health” 喫茶養生記. His years of traveling and studying in China made Eisai an enchanted believer and practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine. As a result, he gathered a deep understanding and keen knowledge of tea’s medicinal qualities. To this scholarly monk, the bitterness in Green tea particularly benefits heart health.

chinese tea history How Tea Came to Japan historical image 100 buddhist monks assembly tang dynasty
"Tea is the most wonderful medicine for nourishing one's health; it is the secret of long life." – Eisai
"Tea is the most wonderful medicine for nourishing one's health; it is the secret of long life." – Eisai

Evolving History of Tea in Japan

Origin of Matcha Green Tea

Three hundred years flowed by, at the dawn of the 16th century, Japan adopted the Chinese tradition of Whipped tea, ground-up Green tea with a head of foam, originating in China during the Song Dynasty. The Japanese called it MatCha– reviving a then-ancient tea tradition that took China by storm 600 years prior. Back in the 10th century, the Chinese consumed tea with a bowl. And Cha-Dou “Tea Competitions” were held in villages to compete for the title of tea–the King of Tea.

Birth of the Japanese Tea Ceremony

Taking this bowl of frothy Green tea, Japanese tea master Sen no Rikyū combined the elegant Song simplicity of tea aesthetics with Lu Yu’s Cha Do, The Way of Tea, philosophy, and shaped these elements to what become known as the Japanese Tea Ceremony, aka Chanoyu.

Introducing Loose Tea Leaves in Japan

In 1652, a Chinese Zen Buddhism disciple named Ingen fled to Japan. The monk brought loose tea leaves in his travel satchel. Loose tea was a Ming Dynasty tea invention in China. So monk Ingen expanded Japanese tea culture by introducing steeped tea using a teapot at the Obaku temple in Uji. And now the tea leaves are flowing freely in Japan, primarily Green tea.

Evolving History of Tea in Japan

Origin of Matcha Green Tea

Three hundred years flowed by, and at the dawn of the 16th century, Japan adopted the Chinese tradition of Whipped tea, ground-up Green tea with a head of foam, originating in the Song Dynasty (the 10th century). They named it MatCha.

Birth of the Japanese Tea Ceremony

Japanese tea master Sen no Rikyū was credited with combining the elegant simplicity of the Chinese Song tea aesthetics with Lu Yu’s Cha Do – “The Way of Tea” philosophy – and shaped these elements to what become known as the Japanese Tea Ceremony or Chanoyu.

Loose Tea Leaves in Japan

In 1652, a Chinese Zen Buddhism disciple named Ingen fled to Japan. In his travel satchel, the monk brought along loose tea leaves, a Ming Dynasty tea invention in China. He expanded Japanese tea culture by steeping tea in a teapot at the Obaku temple in Uji.

The Spread of Green Tea In Japan

A fellow temple monk Baisao (1675-1763), would popularize loose tea and become the famous old tea seller in Kyoto. This steeping method became sencha, or “boiled tea” (煎茶). A type of Green tea, Sencha, is now the most popular form of tea in Japan, representing 80 percent of all tea produced each year. Commercial tea cultivation began in the 1600s. Today, Shizuoka Prefecture is the number one producer, and Kagoshima Prefecture ranks second. In 1859, Japan started exporting tea to America, and by 1890, 40% of America’s tea came from Japan. According to Bruce Richardson, a tea maestro and historian, they were all Green tea.

The Spread of Green Tea in Japan

A fellow temple monk Baisao (1675-1763), would popularize loose tea and become the famous old tea seller in Kyoto. This steeping method became sencha, or “boiled tea” (煎茶). A type of Green tea, Sencha, is now the most popular form of tea in Japan, representing 80 percent of all tea produced each year.

Commercial tea cultivation began in the 1600s. Today, Shizuoka Prefecture is the number one producer, and Kagoshima Prefecture ranks second. In 1859, Japan started exporting tea to America, and by 1890, 40% of America’s tea came from Japan. According to Bruce Richardson, a tea maestro and historian, they were all Green tea. 

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You’ll love our new art book! A labor of love, this tea book showcases glorious images, taking you on a journey through ancient tea rituals and how these practices bring calmness, mindfulness, and tranquility through the ages.