Origins of Matcha

Learn about the ability of matcha to help people sustain energy throughout the day. This green tea powder is a superfood with a rich production and consumption history.

| July 2018

The Book of Matcha (Sterling Epicure, 2016), by Louise Cheadle and Nick Kilby is an introduction and guide for readers about the all-natural, powerful, and nutrient-rich matcha.  Readers are taught the history of matcha and the unique growing process leading to its bright green color and popularity for use in tea and cooking.  Using matcha in recipes often leaves those who consume it with an alert and focused feeling and a better and longer release of energy throughout the day.  Recipes containing matcha first began with teas and other drinks, but have now expanded to almost every area of cooking.

Although you may have only recently discovered matcha – the super-concentrated 100 percent green tea powder – only recently, it is nothing new. Matcha has been drunk in Japan since the twelfth century, and before that in China. Although the Japanese are considered the masters of matcha, key elements of matcha production originated in China.

In China, drinking green tea was commonplace in the eighth century, and the tradition of steaming and drying green tea into bricks was widespread. Then the Chinese Zen (Chan) monks got involved. They broke off chunks from the brick and ground it into a very fine powder using a pestle and mortar, before whisking the powder with hot water in a large bowl to make their green tea. The whisking of the ground green tea leaves became a key part of the Zen Buddhist daily ritual.

Matcha came to Japan when Myoan Eisai, a Japanese monk, discovered ground green tea leaves while traveling in China in the late 1180s to study Zen Buddhist meditation. In love with China, Zen Buddhism, and ground green tea leaves, he returned to Japan in 1191 with a few tea plant seeds. He then began a very successful one-monk campaign to popularize Zen Buddhism within Japan and promote the consumption of matcha, which he believed was vital for meditation.

The Chinese moved on to other teas, including pu-erh, oolong and black tea (which they call red tea). Meanwhile, in Japan, the popularity of green tea developed further, with matcha soon becoming an intrinsic part of Japanese life.

Matcha Grows In Popularity

Zen monasteries in Japan embraced the matcha movement as the monks found that the long periods of meditation were easier with matcha inside. The L-theanine (whether they knew it) kept them calm and alert for long periods of time.

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