Green tea descends from the original tea plant Camellia Sinensis which comes from Southern China. Essentially green tea is a form of tea that has a low level of processing which gives it very high levels of nutrients.
The father of Zen Buddhism and Japanese tea culture, Myouan Eisai, first brought green tea to Japan from China in the late 12th century. Eisai first planted the tea seeds on the border of the Fuluoka and Saga prefectures and it was Eisai who spread the message of drinking green tea for good health.
A monk from the Kousanji temple in Kyoto was given some of these original seeds and planted them near his temple in the Uji region, home of the finest Matcha green tea in the world today. The region was perfect for growing green tea, with it’s nutrient rich soil, warm days and cool nights and misty climate.
It was growers in this region that started growing green tea under shade to promote it’s nutritional development. This was then steam dried into tencha and then stone ground into powder, creating Matcha. This enabled you to consume 100% of the green tea’s goodness. Those Japanese monks developed the concept of the tea ceremony, by drinking Matcha before meditation. The Matcha tea enabled them to concentrate and clear their mind, achieving the highest levels of Zen.
In turn when the Samurai took on Zen Buddhist principals, they too used Matcha as part of their rituals, and found that it increased their energy and alertness in battle. It is said that Eisai first gave Matcha to the Minamoto no Santomo Shogun, known for his heavy drinking, to aid his hangover. Straight after drinking the Matcha, the Shogun’s hangover was gone and felt refreshed!
Matcha for many years was reserved for the Shoguns and nobility of Japan, however this was to change in the 18th century when the Uji processing method was invented, a much more efficient process, leading to Matcha becoming more available to the Japanese masses and becoming the popular drink it is today.