Matcha has been around a long time – because the late 12th century in Japan, a good three hundred years before the impress press was invented, and centuries before Copernicus, Michelangelo, and da Vinci were born. But its roots go back even more, to 8th-century China, because it was thought of more as an art form, similar to poetry, with which one amused oneself, than as a daily refreshment.
Chinese zen (chan) monks were the ones who uncovered the joys of pulverizing green tea leaves (which had first recently been steamed, then dried, then packed into tight forms simple portability). They would prepare their tea by breaking off an amount, mashing it with a mortar and pestle until they got an excellent powder, and then whisking the te matcha powder and hot water together in an extensive, shallow bowl. Preparing and consumption of this tea played an important part in the lives of lots of early on Zen Buddhists, and, eventually, elaborate rituals were shaped around this idiosyncratic renewable tea.
An influential Japanese people Buddhist monk (in the Tendai sect) by the name of Eisai Myoan, on a trip to China back in the 1180s, became rather affected with two important Chinese language practices: Zen Buddhism and matcha. He came back again to Japan pretty dismissed up about both, and devoted the remainder of his life to writing about and teaching both yoga and matcha.
Matcha droped from favor among Oriental intellectuals – it’s never been quite clear why – and was slowly and gradually replaced by other varieties of Chinese tea (especially pu-ehr), but its popularity only grew in Japan, thanks a lot primarily to Eisai’s constant efforts (his two-volume Kissa Yojouki (“Book of Teand Mulberries” has been a classic ever since).
Really rare which a single non-political individual could influence the culture of your civilization to the extent that Eisai did, but he really hit one out of the park because of this of this trip to China: yoga buddhism and matcha have been integral, and secondary, to Japanese culture and history for almost a millennium.
Zen monasteries in Japan accepted matcha beneficios quickly. They favored matcha for a few reasons: 1) it kept them conscious and alert during very long periods of relaxation, and 2) they realized it had valuable medical properties that we now have an extremely scientific take care of on (see The Wellness Benefits of Matcha).
Matcha soon became appreciated by the higher strata in Japan’s caste-oriented early contemporary society because of its propiedades del te matcha, especially among the samurai class, and it progressed in popularity through the end of the sixteenth century. It was during this time period that tea growers, typically in Uji, Kyoto, really started out to understand the best cultivation techniques. With time, they kept learning about and producing better matcha.
Consuming and rising matcha, in conjunction with simultaneous pursuit of Japan’s other traditional arts like poetry, flower arrangement, and painting, gave one a kind of cultural power; fluency in matcha was considered a good way to “rise above a person’s station” anytime. People aspired to matcha. Feudal politicos/bosses (known as daimyo) held on to tea masters on their payrolls for the respect they brought, and gathered tea paraphernalia like ceramics and utensils, which are considered prized cultural possessions.
In some manner along the way, then, the utilization and enjoyment of matcha in China ceased, but it was sent to Japan, where it developed independently, at first in zen monasteries, and then on to the public in the form of chanoyu, or the tea ceremony. Tea guidelines emerged from the many rules that tightly control daily life in yoga temple.
By the fourteenth century, professional tea experts, such as Sen Little Rikyu, developed the tea ceremony into a highly choreographed ritual that makes use of several art varieties, including ceramics, painting, lacquerware, culinary arts, architecture and design, calligraphy, flower layout, and even gardening. Really hard to consider another quest that showcases so many disparate artistic pursuits.
The enjoyment of matcha was at first practiced entirely by men (monks and influential leaders, mostly), however over time, women became increasingly involved. Today, women far outnumber number men in the pursuit of chanoyu.
The good thing is that, today, the popularity of matcha has never been greater or more widespread, far more so than it was during the period of its heyday in the Edo Period and preceding to that.