Since around the 9th Century, when tea was first introduced to the people of Japan by traders who sipped the beverage in China, green tea has evolved into a national obsession and become part of the country’s culture. Keep reading to learn more about the history of this magical drink.
Long before Genghis Khan and Mongol hordes began expansive explorations into China, its people had become a tea-drinking culture. Green tea, specifically, was given magical powers. Those drinking it expected health and welfare benefits. In some parts of 8th Century China, green tea was called “an elixir of youth.”
China wasn’t to keep this healthy beverage all to itself. Traders began transporting leaves and plants the short distance to Japan. Despite rudimentary communications systems, it took next to no time for the people of Japan to fall in love and make green tea drinking more than a pleasurable habit, but a ceremonial one as well.
As tea preparation and consumption became commonplace in Japan, its reputation for having medicinal purposes grew to the point the growing process was often shrouded in mystery so cultivation methods could be limited to the rich and entitled. But during China’s Tang Dynasty, green tea had gone mainstream and while this transformation took longer to reach Japan, a declaration by Emperor Saga, who ruled from 786 to 842, made tea-drinking available to even the lowest class of society.
Perhaps the most enthusiastic proponents of green tea drinking were Buddhist monks, some of whom had become tea drinkers during pilgrimages to China. Eventually, green tea cultivation and propagation attracted two leading proponents of Japanese tea consumption: Kukai and Saicho, Buddhist monks who became legends thanks to huge numbers of tea seeds they brought home each time they visited China.
Having become the most popular drink in Japan thanks to the efforts of these two monks, tea growing had become commonplace as the 9th century came to a conclusion. By this time, it was grown in so many places, visitors to Japan’s imperial palace found themselves walking between rows of tea plants on their way to see the emperor. Zen Buddhist monks, meanwhile, used green tea to help them stay alert longer during lengthy meditation practices and only droughts brought this flourishing agricultural movement to the occasional stop.
By the 12th Century, and thanks to Zen master Eisai, called the father of the Japanese tea culture, this steeped beverage had become the nation’s most-favored beverage. Eisai recognized in tea a plant with the potential to do more than just quench thirst. He began to attribute myriad powers to green tea which prompted poets to publish tributes to green tea’s ability to be a transformative beverage.
Green tea’s importance to Japanese culture can’t be understated. Used ceremoniously by monks, healers and even employed in matters of justice during Kugatachi divination ceremonies staged to determine whether someone was guilty or innocent, the accused was required to remove stones from pots filled with boiling tea or water.
Not every ritual associated with tea was draconian: tea competitions became a major part of samurai warrior training and students drank it before going into battle, too. Ornate tea houses built by wealthy homeowners to stage lavish ceremonies became status symbols. By the 16th Century, cups crafted explicitly for green tea ceremonies were brought from China to Japan, helping to launch the nation's ceramics industry.
Anthropologists with deep understanding of Japanese cultural practices often point to the nation’s propensity for remaining a closed society for centuries, but green tea helped introduce the nation to the world once Japan’s Edo Period dawned. Between 1600 and the mid-1800s, exports of green tea flourished and helped introduce the rest of the world to Japan.
Green tea is now the most consumed beverage in Japan next to water. Japan ranks as the 10th country exporting tea to the world with 1.7% of the total global tea export by volume.
This article was originally published as a Guest Blog on Air Kitchen
If you have ever thought that Green Tea is an “acquired taste” or that it is “too bitter” to enjoy, we’re here to change your mind! We want everyone to experience the health benefits of Green Tea and show you that this can be an amazing, refreshing, and delicious drink when made correctly. With just a few tips on how to brew this powerful leaf we can change your mind about the taste and enjoyment of drinking Green Tea.
Don’t miss out on the health benefits of tea!
We know that you will love this tips to brewing tea and getting the most flavor and elegance out of every cup. Sign up for Free Japanese Green Tea Club and get this great informative manual on brewing green tea. You will learn what it is that makes it one of the most popular beverages in the world.
Sign up for Free Green Tea Club for to Get The Two Books for Free.
Sign up free to Green Tea Club to get tips and exclusive articles about how to use your matcha and green tea for a healthy lifestyle. Green Tea Club is hosted by Kei Nishida, Author of Cook with Matcha and Green Tea and CEO of Japanese Green Tea Company.
Get free E-book "Green Tea Science – 12 Scientific Tips for Brewing Green Tea To Taste Better" By Kei Nishida - Value $9.99
Get free E-book "Matcha Lover's 21st Century Recipe Collection" By Kei Nishida (42 pages recipe book) - Value $9.99
Get immediate access to 10% Off coupon for your first order and access to Exclusive Coupons and Specials - Value $50+
Monthly Giveaways - Value $50+
Access to New Green Tea Recipe and Health Articles - Value $50+
Unsubscribe anytime. It’s free!
What do you really know about Gyokuro and Tencha? This article is a reply to some of your questions and a challenge for you to expand the world of tea that you currently enjoy. Let’s take a few moments to dive into gyokuro and tencha and find out what differences and similarities are out there!