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Friday, September 13, 2013

Green Tea - History in Japan

The history of green tea in Japan is very rich in tradition. Invention of Sencha and Gyokuro and development of the finest manufacturing processes worldwide.

Green tea from China to Japan


The history of green tea has a long history and an intense relationship with the mother country of green tea, China. Back in the Nara period (710-794 AD) and Heian period (794-1192 AD), Japan sent a number of emissaries to China (Tang Dynasty). Relations with other countries were reserved only possible formal occasions and the authorities. On several trips, the emissaries were accompanied by leading Buddhist scholar. Such monks also held partly longer to study in China. First traditions testify that tea has been used already 729 AD by Emperor Shomu in Japan to cause a special Buddhist ceremony.

First tea seeds to Japan

805 AD bring the Buddhist monks Saicho and Kukai who studied in China, supposedly for the first time tea seeds of Camellia sinensis in Japan. This was one of the first planted tea gardens in the Saga Prefecture (Kyushu Island in southern Japan). It was also mentioned that one theory is that the green tea plant (Camellia sinensis) as "Sancha" (Sage) in the mountain regions of Japan wild occurred earlier and was used as a tea.

According to tradition, Emperor Saga promoted the cultivation and drinking green tea, but it was only the aristocracy and the Buddhist monks reserved.815 AD appears the first mention of tea in Japanese literature, the Nihon Koki. It is reported as invited Emperor Saga of Eichu Bonshakuji in the Temple and green tea was served. The green tea was valued mainly for its invigorating effect (supports meditation), spiritual opening and healing power. In this early time of the green tea has been considered one of Chinese medicinal plants. In contrast to today's more sophisticated cooking the tea leaves are then simply given either fresh or dried in hot water and then drank the tea. 

Tea powder is developed (forerunner of matcha)

During the Song Dynasty China (960-1279 AD.) Is a method for preparing powdered tea made from. The powder was ground in either fresh or dried tea leaves. For this tea culture has a certain teapot with side handle (Japanese: 茶 瓶 chabin) developed the forerunner of today's Japanese kyusu. To date, this teapot is used in China for the production of herbal medicine.
Eisai - first book on medicinal properties of green tea in Japan

Minnan Eisai
To 12 Century AD, however, there is almost no evidence of the use of green tea.1191 AD then brought Eisai Yosai (栄 西, 禅师, Japanese monk and Zen master, 1141-1215 AD.), Founder of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism, a new type of tea seeds from his study trip from China to Kyoto. Eisai is said that he had popularized the cultivation and drinking green tea in Japan for health reasons and because of the stimulating effect of the meditation. He wrote in 1214 AD, the first book on Japanese green tea: Kissa Yojoki (Stay healthy by drinking green tea), that he sent to the chronicles of the alcoholic Shogun as a gift.
 "Mountains and valleys, where the tea grows, are sacred and people who harvest the tea, live to old age." ~ Minnan Eisai

Tea plantations of Uji over Japan

A disciple of Eisai, the monk Shonin Myoei put in Uji, near Osaka and Kyoto, supposedly one of the first tea plantations on. The close contacts between the monks and the ruling class of samurai made the tea in this layer up to the Shogun because of its advantages relatively quickly popular. Tea plantations were finally erected throughout the country, especially at first in temples and temple goods for the nobility (eg in Kyoto, Yamato, Musashi, Suruga, Iga, Ise). The Shogun left to serve with green tea powder from Uji to the present Tokyo. The Uji region still enjoys a very high reputation in terms of its tradition and quality in tea cultivation.At this time the tea was mainly steamed and dried without him pressing or rolling and as tea powders milled (tencha method). Later, different manufacturing methods developed. 

Green tea and tea ceremony

In the late Kamakura period (1185-1333) the taste competitions to green tea (Tocha, Chakabuki), were originally from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) of China are carried out particularly popular and common among the samurai. Likewise here, spread the tea ceremony. It was not until the 16thCentury changed slowly that green tea has been used almost exclusively by the nobility. A significant proportion of this was Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591) as one of the main founders of the art of tea ceremony (Wabicha). Even as tea master Murata Shuko and Takeno Joo are emphasized.

From tea powder for infusion of tea leaves

Again, by a monk came to the Japanese green tea to progress. Until now, it was mainly common in Japan, grind the tea after harvesting tea powder. You had to quickly prepare accordingly it because of the low durability. The Chinese Zen master Ingen Ryuki ( 隠元 , 1592-1673 AD.) came in 1654 at the invitation of Uji and founded the main temple of the Obaku Zen in Japan, the Mampokuji. Ingen brought many elements of Chinese culture with them, including the preparation method, the green tea leaves and infuse with the water not tea powder.

Invention of the Uji method: Sencha

Sen no Rikyu

In the meantime, a relatively large variety of production methods had spread of green tea in Japan, with different emphases depending on province. A significant invention and a breakthrough in terms of the health effects of green tea was made in 1738 AD by Nagatani Soen from Uji. He invented a new method of treating the tea leaves.His method was to roll this after harvest and after steaming. With the loss, the fermentation is stopped and retained the ingredients. With the roll, the cell walls are broken up and the ingredients can do far better than going into the tea water. This Uji Seiho method is still used today as Matcha production.

Dissemination of Sencha from the nobility to the literati

The Mampokuji Temple brought another cultural effects, especially on the 18th Japan Century. Especially the monk Gekkai Gensho (1675-1763) "Baisao" had great influence on the cultivation and dissemination of Sencha as Art Walks in the educated upper class of Japan, especially the artists and writers. Thus, besides the schools of tea powder (matcha), the schools of Sencha-Do, both of which are represented today in Japan originated.

Invention of Gyokuro Uji

By the end of the Edo period (1603-1868 AD), it was customary to cover the tea for the extraction of tea powder (matcha) with rice straw and to shade it. But was rolled usually only the Sencha. Ogura developed in 1835 in Uji Kahei Yamamoto finally the refined technique for the production of shaded places and rolled green tea, called Gyokuro ("noble dew"). The Gyokuro spread all over Japan.
However, by the end of the Edo period, the green tea the nobility and the upper class of Japan remained very reserved. The tea is grown mainly in the mountainous regions of Japan. However, the distribution of green tea increased considerably. He was (now Tokyo) acted with the approval of the government by tea merchant in certain Teehandelszonen Edo and sold from there to other parts of Edo and Japan.

Influence of the Meiji revolution in the cultivation of green tea

An essential promote the dissemination of green tea in Japan is due to the large change in the system of political leadership at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration or "Meiji Revolution" (1868). At this time came the political power of the country from the hands of the shoguns, or the warrior aristocracy (Bushi / Samurai) back to the Emperor (Meiji Tenno). Centuries of selective isolation of Japan has now transformed into an opening and alignment with the West and modernization. This happened in particular in order to counter the risk of colonization. With the loss of their power and their missions, the Bushi now taught - under the direction of the last shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu - on agriculture, especially the cultivation of tea and silk production and their distribution from. Thus the cultivation of green tea from the mountainous regions stretched to large tea plantations also to the flatter land.

Opening of seaports

Tea Culture in Japan
Although in 1610 the first tea export of Japan was conducted by the Dutch East India Company of Hirado / Nagasaki, so it took until the end of the Edo period was the export to run on a broad basis. A milestone in the development of green tea in Japan was during the orientation on the west, the opening of commercial ports from 1859 (Nagasaki, Yokohama, Hakodate). The Shogun Tokugawa in Edo in 1858 signed the friendship and trade agreement with the United States and was quickly followed by similar agreements with the Netherlands, Russia, Britain and France. By this step the great business potential opened up by the cultivation and export of green tea for the operation of large foreign demand. Besides silk green tea has become Japan's largest export product. 1859 the export amounted to about 181 tons. After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the export of green tea with the support of the government flourished particularly strong, especially in the United States. During this time spread all over Japan, Uji method of tea processing and displaced the other methods (tea powder (matcha) and tencha method).

Emergence of the modern tea industry in Japan

With the increasing volume of export trade and international competition, the tea prices fell in 19 Century significantly. The old owners, the samurai families, passed gradually from the tea plantations. Farmers and tea growers took over this. Gradually developed the modern structure with large plantations of tea cultivation, the invention of modern harvesting and processing machinery and distribution with wholesalers and retailers.The rapid pace of automation not only led to a saving of many jobs, but also to a more constant quality of tea.Today's tea production in Japan has a highly sophisticated, computerized and highly sophisticated industry.For marketing purposes and to meet the changes in demand and lifestyles large range extensions and new tea products were introduced in the Japanese market since the 80s. Today green tea exists in many variants, as a finished product and blending in plastic bottles, cartons and cans, as well as processed food supplements, such as green tea extract, catechin supplements and much more.