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History of tea in Japan

by Dianna Leon

The most consumed beverage in the world is tea: with different flavors and many medicinal properties, teas are part of the daily habits of different peoples, as is the case of the Japanese. For the country’s culture, the drink has already become synonymous with what, in aroma and taste, synthesizes the local essence.

What are teas?

The popular tea, which is black tea, is purchased in supermarkets in small boxes or in dry leaves, and they originate from a plant that is originally from China called camellia sinensis , which translated from the Latin means “Camellia from China”. It is even the plant that gives rise to the only drink correctly called tea. (the others are infusions).

chinese legend

There is a legend around Emperor Shen Nung who accidentally, in the year 2737 BC, discovered tea.

Besides being emperor, Shen Nung was a philosopher who, for hygiene, only drank boiled water. On one of the days, he was resting near the tree and some leaves fell into the container in which he had put the water to boil. But instead of removing the leaves, he simply let them boil with the water, realizing they had produced an infusion.

He decided to try it and liked the taste. There are, however, no records that prove the veracity of this story, but the Chinese carry this legend as true.

What is known is that teas have been made in China for many years, and one of the first written references is dated to the 3rd century BC, in which, on the recommendation of a Chinese doctor at the time, a general who felt depressed should take the drink. This indicates that the benefits of the drink have been known since ancient times.

tea in japan

In Japan, the oldest record of the drink is dated 729, when some Buddhist monks who had gone to China to study brought tea as a gift to Emperor Shomu. The introduction of tea cultivation, however, took place in the year 805 and is attributed to the monk Saicho.

Despite being popular in the area, nowadays, tea took a long time to become common and popularized in Japan. For a long time, the drink was considered a medicine and reserved to the privileged due to the break in relations with the Chinese.

It was in monasteries that tea first became more popular, with cultivation beginning and consumption eventually.

The Ashikaga family, from 1336 onwards, ended up changing the way teas were seen by the Japanese, when, enjoying the taste of tea, they transformed the habit of drinking into a type of ceremony, encouraging the warrior classes, the court and other orders Buddhist monastics to consume. As a result, consumption spread and became a true ceremony that became known as chanoyu.

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