tea ceremony

Guide to Japanese matcha tea history

Slightly bitter and sweet matcha. It has a very pleasant taste, and one sip will fill your mouth with a bitter and mellow taste that is very flavorful. It is also very popular for its various reported benefits, such as its antioxidant effect and calming effect on the brain. What is the history of matcha in Japan, and how has its appeal been passed down to the present? This article provides a thorough explanation of the history of matcha in Japan and will help you solve the mystery. There is also some interesting information at the end of the article, so please read it as well.

What is the history of matcha?

tea room

The popularity of matcha today is very exciting worldwide. One theory is that the matcha flavor of Haagen-Dazs, which went on sale in 1996, pioneered the matcha boom. The rich ice cream, with its moderate bitterness and sweetness, became a staple flavor. In 2001, Starbucks began selling a matcha Frappuccino. Matcha" gradually became popular in the sweets and beverage industry.

Matcha is very popular today, but how did it originate? It has a history that goes back 800 years.

Early Heian Period: Tea is introduced to Japan

Tea itself is thought to have been introduced to Japan in the early Heian Period. The Tang Dynasty (China) was an advanced country at that time, and they sent missions to Japan to introduce various things such as Buddhism, culture, and learning. In the "Nihon Koki" written in 815, it is written that "the high priest Eichu offered tea to Emperor Saga at Bonshakuji Temple in Omi". This is said to be the first mention of Japanese tea in Japan. At that time, a method called "mochicha" (rice cake tea) was commonly used, which was different from that of matcha (powdered green tea).

Heian - Kamakura Period: Beginning of Matcha History

Tea itself was brought to Japan through exchange with the Tang Dynasty, but after the abolition of the Japanese envoys to the Tang Dynasty in 894, the influx of tea culture ceased, and tea culture in Japan once again declined.

However, in the late Heian to Kamakura periods, a new method of making matcha, which is similar to modern matcha, was born and an era of prosperity returned.

In 1191, Eisai, the founder of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, brought back tea seeds from China, and the tea culture began to spread in Japan. It is recorded that Eisai wrote a book on tea, "Kicha Yoseiki," which describes the types of tea and the process of making powdered tea, and presented it to Minamoto no Sanetomo, the shogun of the time.

The tea popularized during this period was called tencha or minced tea, which was similar to today's matcha, made from powdered tea leaves, dissolved in hot water, and drunk.

Muromachi Period: The Way of Tea Blossomed by Sen no Rikyu

sen no rikyu
Sakai city

As tea once again spread throughout Japan, Sen no Rikyu developed the tea ceremony to a great extent, and the tea culture came to life at once. The tea ceremony created by Sen no Rikyu was the birthplace of a culture that embodied the essence of "apology and solitude," in which tea was enjoyed quietly and tranquilly in a quiet room without luxury.

Sen no Rikyu was born in 1522 in Sakai, Osaka, into a family of fish dealers. He learned the tea ceremony from the pioneers of wabicha (tea ceremony) such as Kitamukai Michichen and Takeno Shao'o, and Zen from Obayashi Muneanto, and distinguished himself. In 1576, Rikyu was appointed as a tea master by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. The "Gozukuri" (the gathering of tea utensils) at Osaka Castle, the Daitokuji Grand Tea Ceremony, the Forbidden Tea Ceremony, and the Great Tea Ceremony in the North were all held in succession, all supported by the tea masters, led by Sen no Rikyu.

In addition to Sen no Rikyu, Munehisa Imai and Sokyu Tsuda were also remarkably active in the tea ceremony, and together they were known as the "three masters under heaven. The 1580s, when Rikyu was active, is also said to have been a period of rapid changes in the tea house, tea utensils, and tea ceremony etiquette.

The tea room was mainly laid out on three tatami mats, and tea utensils were increasingly made in Japan (Japanese and Korean), Korea , and Southeast Asia.

The Warring States Period: The spirit of tea was loved by warlords

The Sengoku period is said to be the era when the tea ceremony was enjoyed. Samurai warriors, who lived and died side by side, were always tense, but at the same time they sought intense healing. Chanoyu was chosen as a means to heal, to reduce the deadly mood, and to strengthen one's spirit. The tea leaves are ground over time, the water is boiled, the tea is brewed, and a bowl of tea is quietly enjoyed.

This is also in line with the spirit of Zen. Naturally, the gatherings of the people at the meetings also changed from banquets to tea ceremonies. In the Warring States period, there were warring feudal lords such as Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It is said that they, too, were captivated by the tea ceremony. Nobunaga loved "good horses," "swords," and "falconry" as much as any military commander. The "Hatsuhana Charyu" (tea caddy) that Nobunaga acquired during the hunt for tea utensils was one of the three most prized possessions in the tea ceremony, and was later passed on to Hideyoshi and Ieyasu.

What about Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the other great master of the tea ceremony? Hideyoshi also loved the tea ceremony so much that he held tea ceremonies in the middle of battles, which is unimaginable from today's tea ceremonies. Moreover, he even took his precious tea utensils, such as his treasured moon painting and a forty-stone tea urn, to the battlefield, which shows that Hideyoshi valued the tea ceremony considerably. In addition, Hideyoshi used the tea ceremony as an important political event. He actively held tea ceremonies for political purposes as well: the Osaka Castle Tea Ceremony to which he invited tea masters, the Forbidden Tea Ceremony held as part of his efforts to manipulate the Emperor and the Imperial Court, the Great Sekihaku Tea Ceremony at Osaka Castle that brought together all the feudal lords of Japan, and the Great Northern Tea Ceremony, which concluded his tea ceremony policy.

Modern Times: To be loved all over the world


The Way of Tea has been built over a long period of time. Today, many people are familiar with matcha not only in Japan but also all over the world. The spirit of tea is something that gives us a sense of calm in today's busy world, and reminds us of what we must not forget as human beings. Even in the midst of our busy lives, we should not forget to take time to savor matcha tea.