Tea is thought to have arrived first in Japan from China during the 9th century. However, it didn’t really take off until the 12th century when a Buddhist priest named Eisai brought seeds back with im from China which yielded high quality leaves. Since then, tea has become an integral part of Japanese culture and daily life. Though it was not always so commonplace, originally reserved for the upper class and used more as a form of medicine. It was not until the chanoyu (tea ceremony) was perfected by Sen no Rikyu in the 16th century, that the tea culture as we know it really took off and was spread among all social classes.
Many people love the traditional aspects of tea drinking in Japan and often seek to experience a sado (茶道) or chanoyu (茶の湯) which is a Japanese tea ceremony. Some of which can last for hours.
The tea ceremony is an important part of Japanese culture and many consider it an art form in itself. The complexity and beauty of the tea ceremony cannot be done justice in this short blog, so we’ve included a video if you’d like to learn more. But it is important to note that the ceremony is not performed every day, and most Japanese people don’t have a special tea ceremony room in their houses. The ceremony is mostly practiced by enthusiasts and Buddhist temples. Whilst the ceremony used to be reserved for nobles and Buddhists, today anybody can experience it. But in modern day Japan, most people will just make their own tea at home or buy it from a konbini (convenience store).
But from tea ceremonies to general daily consumption; there are many different types of tea in Japan, the most ubiquitous being green tea, known as sencha. Let’s talk about just a few of the different tea types.
Sencha is the most popular form of tea in Japan and all our Japanese teas use sencha leaves. Sencha is green tea. Two thirds of tea produced in Japan is Sencha and can be bought as leaves or already brewed in bottles and cans. Sencha is grown in full sunlight, then the leaves are steamed for about 30 seconds to stop the fermentation process. Many people also consume this drink iced or cold. Sencha is packed with antioxidants that boost your immune system, decrease inflammation and lower cholesterol.
Matcha is a bright green tea, which is quite earthy in flavour. The tea plants are grown in shade, so they grow larger and finer. They are then ground into a fine powder and whisked with hot water to make tea. The highest grades of matcha are used in tea ceremonies. Matcha has a number of health benefits including boosting your immune system and being packed with antioxidants.
Hojicha is made by roasting the stems and leaves of the plants which are harvested later in the season. This is a relatively new type of tea as it emerged during the 1920s when Kyoto tea merchants roasted the stems over charcoal creating a nutty and warm flavour. Roasting the tea also makes it decaffeinated so it can be enjoyed at any time of the day!
Genmaicha is made from green tea with roasted rice. The nutty flavour of the roasted rice takes away the bitterness of the green tea. Perfectly harmonious. If you want to try genmaicha, try our popcorn tea! Made with sencha and popcorn pieces, this one is nutty with a hint of sweetness.
And that’s a (very) brief overview of teas in Japan! Black teas and Oolong teas are fairly rare in Japan, but you will have no problems finding a vast array of different types of green teas in Japan. Luckily here at BRUU we have a range of teas to cover all your tea needs.