Over the course of millennia, the Japanese have refined tea to a level of artistry and spiritual importance, epitomized by Chado, "the way of tea." The nation's culture of devotion and discipline have created strong traditions and elaborate rituals in celebration of the drink.


The first written account of tea in Japan dates back to the beginning of the ninth century. Japanese monks that travelled to China brought it back with them. Tea was mainly drunk as medicine at that time and was only available to the upper class. Later, at the end of the twelfth century, tea was reintroduced in the form of matcha for religious purposes by the Buddhist monk Eisai. Eisai also wrote Kissayôjôki, the first Japanese book on tea that describes the beneficial influence of tea on health. This book greatly stimulated the popularity of tea. Over the years, tea found its way to a larger public, especially when new ways to process tea were developed. In the fifteenth century the Chinese kamairicha method, producing tea by pan-firing tea, was introduced to Kyusu in the south of Japan. This remained the way to produce tea until the eighteenth century. In 1738 Sôen Nagatani of Uji invented a method to steam and rub tea. This revolutionary invention became the starting point of the production of typical Japanese sencha and gyokuro. The production process has been largely improved and automated since then, but the basic process has remained the same.


There are about twenty different types of Japanese tea. The kind most often made in Japan is the steamed type of sencha and fukamushicha, which together account for seventy-five percent of the tea produced in the country. Aromatic teas such as bancha and hojicha are very popular as well.

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