matcha in matcha small.jpg
 

Matsu (to rub) + Cha (tea) = matcha

Matcha is made from tea leaves which are shade-grown for 20 days under reed or straw screens before harvest, dried and then ground into a densely nutritious powder.

We always think about Japan when we talk about matcha. However, the origins of matcha can be traced way back to Tang Dynasty (618-907) in China. Back then, tea leaves were steamed and formed into tea bricks for storage and trade. These tea bricks were prepared by roasting and pulverising the leaves. The resulting tea powder was then prepared in hot water with added salt. During Tang Dynasty, tea drinking, that was only popular amongst southern China, gradually spread to the north due to the popularity of Buddhism.

 
Giant Wild Goose Pagoda  or  Big Wild Goose Pagoda  is located in southern Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China, and it was built in 652 during the Tang Dynasty.

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda or Big Wild Goose Pagoda is located in southern Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China, and it was built in 652 during the Tang Dynasty.

 

The development of tea culture and the method of making tea changed a lot during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279). Powdered tea was invented and Chinese started preparing tea by whipping the tea powdered from steam-dried tea leaves and hot water in a bowl. Soon the preparation and consumption of powdered tea became a ritual for the Chan, or Zen Buddhists, as they realised it increased focus and mental clarity; being beneficial to mindful meditation. Still during the Song Dynasty, preparing and offering tea to visitors became a social activity.

In 1191, Eisai, a Japanese Buddhist Monk who spent part of his life studying Buddhism in China, returned to Japan and planted green tea seeds on the grounds of the Daitokuji Temple in Kyoto. He wrote the book Kissa Yōjōki (Drinking Tea for Health) and devoted the rest of his life to writing about and teaching about zen and matcha.

At that time, matcha was considered more of a medicine than a delicacy. It became an important item at Zen monasteries. The flavour is always described as quite bitter. It was not until the 15th -16th century that the shade-growing method that gives matcha its tender, nutritious, and vibrant qualities and its umami-sweet taste was discovered.

It’s important to remember that Japan was a poor and isolated country, so while Buddhist monks and wealthy individuals had access to luxury goods such as matcha, most population was not familiar to tea practices and goods.

Japanese farmers refined the methods of producing matcha in the following centuries and the making and drinking of the tea became more popular and matcha acquired different facets in the Japanese culture: source of energy for Buddhist monks; a medicine for prevention and treatment of different deceases; a delicacy; and a social gathering through the Japanese tea ceremony.

Zen buddhism and matcha have played a very important role in Japanese culture and history for almost a millennium. However, the preparation and the consumption of matcha have never been so popular as today.

Click here if you want to zen out with the best matcha available or if you just want to prepare delicious funky matcha drinks.

 
 
japanese matcha meditation
 

“Tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete. Tea has an extraordinary power to extend someone’s life. Everywhere where people will plant tea, long life will follow”.

Eisai Myon