Have you ever wondered where Japanese tea came from? What’s the history of Japanese tea? How did it start and who started it?
In this post, we will get to know more about the history of Japanese tea and how it came about.
The History of Japanese Tea Ceremony
Behind the calm and peaceful ceremony of preparing and serving a Japanese tea, there is so much depth of history. And there is beauty in really knowing the origin and how it became an important part of a royal family’s ritual and ceremony.
So today, as you sip your heartwarming Japanese green tea fresh from tea farmers, let’s explore the beauty of Japanese tea origin.
According to Japanese history, the first record of reference to tea were made as early as the 9th century. It was first known and became a part of religious classes performed by Japanese priests.
Long before this, drinking tea in China has already been widespread since the fourth century, using it not just for ceremonial but as well as for medicinal purposes.
During the Tang dynasty, an envoy of Japanese priests supposedly lead by Buddhist monks Kūkai and Saichō, went to China to learn more about the Chinese culture. There they discovered the beauty of tea ceremony and the different benefits of tea consumption both for religious and medicinal purposes.
Originally, the Buddhist monks brought the tea seeds and grew them solely for religious purposes. But in the year 815, according to the book Kuikū Kokushi, a head of a Buddhist monks, said to be Buddhist monk Eichu, served tea to Emperor Saga. This was recorded as the very first Japanese tea drinking in the history of Japan.
Now, Emperor Saga was known for his Sinophilia, or the obsession in Chinese culture, and so, it wasn’t a surprise that he ordered to establish five tea plantations near the capital. This has been the start of including tea ceremonies in the imperial family and other members of the nobility.
Nonetheless, the popularity of tea drinking in Japan slowly declined after Emperor Saga’s death. Tea drinking was still existing, but the practice has slowly died out as well.
It wasn’t until a Zen monk named Eisai brought the tradition back to life, so to speak. He was credited for making tea drinking popular in Japan again. He came back from China and just like the other monks, he brought back tea seeds to plant them in the island of Hirado.
He then introduced a specific way in preparing the tea which became the basis of the traditional tea ceremony. Even this time, the tea ceremony was only performed by Buddhist monks.
Then, in the 13th century, tea ceremony was adopted by the feudal military government and has been a symbol of status for them. This has made tea drinking even more popular and widespread.
Finally, in the 16th century CE, Japanese expert Sen no Rikyu introduced the Way of Tea in his book Southern Record. This has then become the foundation of the tea ceremony as we know it today.
What is so special about the Japanese tea ceremony and how is it done?
Find out more about Japanese tea and the traditional Japanese tea ceremony on our next articles.
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