History of Matcha

The Origin of Tea

In the beginning of the Kamakura era, about 800 years ago, the Zen master Eisai, known as the founder of Rinzai sect, brought back tea seeds from the Song dynasty of China. This is thought to be the origin of tea culture in Japan. Tea at this time was enjoyed in the same way as preparing powdered tea instead of brewed tea. The Kissa Yojo-ki written by Zen master Eisai is the first literature in Japan to describe the cultivation method and benefits of tea. The monk Myoe of Kosan-ji in Toganoo in the suburb of Kyoto planted tea seeds in various locations such as Uji, Ninnaji and Daigo, which played a significant role in popularization of tea.

The Flourishing of Tea

Uji developed significantly as the land for cultivation, because it was close to the center of Kyoto, and was gifted with mist called the “Uji River Fog” and a mild climate. Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, who is famous for Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion), promoted the cultivation of Uji tea. By the time the Uji Shichimeien, the designated seven gardens of the Muromachi shogunate, were created, Uji became the home of tea, replacing Toganoo. As can be seen in invention of sencha by Nagatani Soen in the Edo era and gyokuro by Kichizaemon Kinoshita in the beginning of the Edo era, people who were engaged in the tea business in Uji spared no effort in showing originality and ingenuity, which resulted in the development of tea.

Chanoyu (the Tea Ceremony)

Chanoyu as a vessel of the Zen spirit of the Muromachi era was passed down to Sen no Rikyu and established as a part of our culture. The tea ceremony was given patronage by warlords such as Nobunaga and Hideyoshi, increasing its popularity. Consequently, Uji matcha established a firm position as something essential among tea masters. As a spiritual culture unique to Japan, Chanoyu has been passed down through various tea schools to the present.

Widely Known Matcha

Matcha in recent days is a drink we see in many places such as restaurants and cafes because we are enjoying it by mixing it with milk and sugar, soda water, and other ingredients Matcha is no longer a kind of tea just for the world of the tea ceremony. Matcha’s popularity has also created the classic flavor of matcha for ice creams and confectionery. The Japanese food boom and attention to health benefits served as the driver for rapidly increasing matcha demand overseas in areas such as North America, Asia and Europe.