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History Behind the Japanese Tea

Tea culture in fact started in China, then it soon spread throughout Asia. Chinese sailors travelled to different places and carried tea with them.

People near Yellow Sea, were too willing to embrace this new drink, which became the ceremonial culture and this culture survives even to this day.

As per history that is known to us, a monk called Saisho from China, first brought the tea leaves to Japan during Heian period. While Saisho and few other travelers brought tea leaves, it was another visionary who sow seeds of true tea culture of Japan.

The true tea culture of Japan really started when a monk Eisai brought back seeds of tea-tree from pilgrimage to China. These seeds were planted by him on the Kyushu island around the Hakata monasteries and path of tea in the Japan began.

Eisai and his other contemporaries basically used tea as a medicine. They used the same methods of preparation that was common in China during that time. All tea drinkers used to grind tea leaves before it was poured into hot water.

The Zen ideas and lifestyle of Eisai certainly contributed to create the ideas about the Japanese tea, and still they are vital part of this tea preparation even after thousand years.

Tea was then planted on the Honshu, which is near to Kyoto, where monks used to cultivate and use this plant with the belief that it can help with their meditation.

After few years, statesmen and intellectuals included tea into their regular daily lifestyle routine as well, which was later followed by the well-known and famed Japanese Samurai.

During the 16th century, shading of the tea plants to protect from sunlight by using Tana canopies started. This process became the origin of Gyokuro and Matcha teas of today.

During the 17th century, another travelling Chinese Monk called Yin Yuan started spreading the new way of loose tea leaf infusion in Japan, however this new link between Japan and China couldn’t continue for a very long time.

Between 1641 and 1853, when Japan started a well-known policy of total isolation, there was no contact between Japan and the rest of world. This also included the tea producing countries like China too.

Due to this reason, Japan was compelled to discover their own way of preparing tea which remained totally isolated from the Chinese culture.

As a result, Japanese teas e.g. Matcha and Gyokuro became more popular, and also Japanese tea makers started innovating new ways to prepare tea.

During 1738, Soen Nagatanisan created the new steaming method meant for green tea which is still used even today, for capturing the freshness of tea leaves. This method can still be seen and widely practiced all over the world even in 2018.

To this day, most of the Japanese tea is usually consumed in Japan itself, either casually in restaurants or in more formal groups and also in various tea ceremonies.

However, as modern and global country, Japan too imports a very big range of tea from various parts of the world.

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