The History of Matcha

drinking tea japan

Green tea powder, which originated in China, where the drink had been part of social entertainment since the 8th century, arrived in Japan and in the 15th century has become the basis for sophisticated movement of philosophy of life – Chado (in Japanese meaning the Way of Tea).

The central point of Chado is the tea ceremony that is closely related to the Buddhist rituals of Zen. Drinking green tea not only aided the effort of meditation of monks in China and later in Japan, but has become a means to attain enlightenment itself. Sacrificing a bowl of the drink to Buddha was part of everyday temple practices.

A modest form of the tea ceremony, which has survived to this day and its message of beauty contained in the simplicity evokes admiration also in the West, has emerged in the 16th century. It was a response to the ornate and sumptuous style that the Japanese aristocracy was particularly fond of and copied the Chinese patterns. Radical simplicity was encouraged, among other things, by monk Murata Shuko, who attained enlightenment at the moment when he realised that the eternal law of the Buddha is revealed by a mere gesture of filling the bowl with hot water. The beauty of the tea ceremony comes from harmony that arises between the minds of the host and their guests. The spirit of the tea is expressed in four concepts: peace, purity, respect and the above-mentioned harmony. A ceremony conducted in a proper way frees from worries, shows the perfection of nature and human activities.

A tea pavilion – an extremely modest building, almost austere in expression, with thin walls, flat roof and empty walls – is only a background for the careful practice of preparing and sharing the drink between the host and the guests. Focus on subtle, sensual experience is a celebration of transient beauty of objects and careful gestures.

Today, the tea ritual involving matcha provides opportunities for meeting of the elite, intellectual exchange, it deepens erudition and is an expression of care and continuity of tradition.

“Those who cannot feel the littleness of great things in themselves are apt to overlook the greatness of little things in others.” – as written in a collection of essays entitled “The Book of Tea” by Okakura Kakuzo, who was one of the first Japanese who advocated the traditional art, crafts and artistic techniques in the early 20th century.