history of tea

   The 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 dates back to ancient Chinese mythology. In one particular myth, people speculated that the legendary emperor, Shinnou, experimented with many medicinal plants and finally discovered tea as an antidote.


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

Common 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, Eisai, who started the Rinzai school on Zen Buddhism was studying Buddhism in China. Upon his return to  Japan, he brought along tea, as it was popular in China for its numerous 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 or those who could afford it enjoyed tea. Over time however, tea became popular among other sectors of society, including monks, and samurais. The former used tea within their training, while the latter began drinking tea after being influenced by the Zen culture.


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.

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 and

new forms for tea are born in Uji Kyoto


In Edo era (A.D. 1603~1868), the tea culture in Japan

changed dramatically. Citizens from all walks of life began to enjoy

Japanese green tea, and they 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


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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