Occasional Diary

History of Tea

Nara – Heian Period (710-1192)

It is estimated that tea was brought to Japan by Japanese envoys to Tang China and monks studying in China during the Nara and Heian periods, when Japan was trying to learn and adopt the advanced systems and culture of China.
Tea was extremely valuable and could only be consumed by a limited number of people, such as monks and the aristocracy.
(Figure: Minister Kibi’s Tang Dynasty painting)

Kamakura – Northern and Southern Dynasties Period (1192-1392)

Eisai (1141-1215), the founder of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism in Japan, traveled to the Song Dynasty twice to study Zen Buddhism and saw and heard about the popular practice of drinking tea at Zen temples.
After returning to Japan, Eisai wrote Japan’s first book on tea, “Tea and Health,” in which he explained the benefits of tea.
As the tea ceremony spread to Zen temples, it also spread to the samurai class as a tool for socializing.
In addition, during the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties, “tea fights” were held to compare teas and determine their origin.
(Figure: Eisai)

Muromachi – Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1336-1603)

Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408) gave special patronage to Uji tea, which was passed on to Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598), and the Uji tea brand was formed. In the Azuchi-Momoyama period, Uji also began to cultivate undercover tea, which was processed into high-grade tencha.
(Figure: Cultivation under cover)

Edo Period (1603-1868)

Chanoyu was officially included in the rituals of the Edo shogunate, and became an indispensable part of samurai society.
On the other hand, records from the Edo period show that tea as a beverage permeated the lives of ordinary people.
The tea that was drunk by the common people was not matcha, but roasted (boiled) tea leaves that had been processed in a simple way.
In 1738, Nagatani Soen of Uji-Tawarago changed the method of tea production to a more careful method and developed a superior method of making Sencha, and is called the founder of Sencha. The unprecedented green color of the water, sweet taste, and fragrant aroma amazed the citizens of Edo.
The method created by Soen is called the “Uji method” (blue sencha method), and from the latter half of the 18th century, it spread to tea gardens all over Japan and became the mainstream of Japanese tea.(Figure: Soen Nagatani)

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