The plant which gives us green tea is the Camellia Sinensis, and it is native to the Yunnan province in Southern China. Green tea has been consumed in China since at least 2700BC; many years prior to this, the leaves were used medicinally, and were even pickled and eaten.
According to legend, Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was resting outside in 2737BC when the breeze blew leaves of the tea plant into the water. They left an amazing aroma and flavour in the water, which was delicious and refreshing to drink.
Matcha green tea, despite coming from this plant, however, originates in Japan.
The name “matcha” comes from “ma”, meaning powder, and “cha”, which means “tea”. It literally translates as “powder tea”.
Green tea was brought to Japan from China by Zen monks between 794-1185AD. This was in leaf brick form.
The first seeds for the green tea plant were brought to Japan from Sung Dynasty China in 1191AD by Eisai, a Zen monk who founded Rinzai Zen Buddhism. He planted them in the grounds of the temple in Kyoto. Eisai was also the first man to grind the leaves into a powdered form and consume them this way. Eisai promoted matcha as a wondrous elixir that prolonged and enhanced life. The enjoyment of matcha and its benefits was initially restricted to Zen monks and those of high culture and nobility in the Japanese Imperial courts – as these were the only people who could afford this precious drink. Over time, samurai warriors and the common people were able to enjoy and benefit from its attributes.
Drinking matcha was, like green tea, initially largely a medicinal practice. The style of preparation was called “tencha”; it involved placing the green tea powder into a bowl, pouring hot water over it, and whisking them together.
It was during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that the ritual preparation of matcha tea and the traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony were born. It was a formal nod to one’s personal spiritual journey, and a simple way of living which was so prized. The Tea Ceremony was developed as a quiet and sobering transformative practice, and mindful humility, refinement, simplicity, and restraint were at its core. The principles set out centuries ago still apply to the Japanese Tea Ceremony: harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity.
Japanese Tea Ceremony 1904
Matcha green tea is still revered to this day – for its amazing benefits to body, mind, and spirit...