The origin of Tea in Japan can be traced back to the 9th century. It is assumed to have passed from China due to the frequent visits of Buddhist Monks from China to Japan.
Tea was initially a drink restricted to the royal classes in Japan. By the 12th century, it started gaining popularity, hence seeds of tea were brought from China and attempts to cultivate tea started in Japan.
Uji region near the city of Kyoto became Japan's first major tea cultivating region. In 13th & 14th centuries, tea became an integral part of the culture in Japan. Japanese tea ceremony, which includes the preparation and presentation of tea in a ceremonial way, was developed under influence of Zen Buddhism
A powdered green tea (Macha Tea) was a luxury symbol in Japan, after the cultivation of this form of tea was successful in Japan. It became widely available later.
From mid 13th century, tea competitions in Japan started gaining popularity. These were majorly organized in order to distinguish among the tea grown in different regions of Japan. Some of the competitions were large gathering of people with lavish decorations, abundant food, dancing etc.
During the 15th century, the first tearoom was built in Japan. This room was utilized to showcase the objects which were an integral part of the tea ceremonies. Tearooms increased in numbers over the period of time and played a key role in increasing the popularity of tea in Japan.
Before the 19th century all teas processed in Japan were handmade. Towards the end of 19th century, rolling machines were introduced. These machines carried out the drying, rolling and steaming process.
Tea is not merely a commodity in Japan, it's a part of an informal gathering called Chakai in Japanese and a formal gathering called Chaji. Rituals of serving tea demonstrate humbleness and hospitality of the Japanese people.
A meal served with a formal tea function is called Kaiseki in Japanese. This meal focuses on the seasonal fresh produce and is a carefully crafted meal. Special efforts are made for garnishing the meal by the host.
Traditionally the host/ hostess wear Kimono for the tea ceremony, however in modern times this tradition is rarely followed in Japan.
Sencha & Macha mainly emerged as popular green tea variants in Japan. Sencha is prepared by infusing the whole leaves in hot water whereas Macha is in the powdered form which is steeped in hot water to make a drink. Senchado in Japanese means the art of enjoying Sencha.
Introduction of automation in manufacturing tea has improved the efficiency of the processes leading to quality production in limited time. Today, Macha tea is globally gaining popularity due to the health benefits it offers.
Japan has readily accepted tea, not merely as a beverage, but as a part of their culture. The consumption of tea in Japan is on the rise. The trade of tea has also seen a significant growth over decades.