Tea is a drink that is most famous in England among westerners, but tea is one of the highest valued cultural items in Japan. The plant from which we get tea was imported into Japan in 1191 by Eisai, a priest who had brought the seeds back from China and cultivated them on temple land. For years it was reserved for religious use. All kinds of tea, except the herbal types, are produced from this plant.


Black tea, green tea, etc., are all made from the leaves of one tea plant. The processing technique, the season the leaves are harvested, and which leaves are used, give us the different kinds of tea. The processes were developed by the Japanese for their particular tastes. This is a common practice of taking only the best and ignoring the rest by making the best, better. That is a part of Japan that will impress everyone. Pride and selectivity. Changes are Expedient Manifestation.


There are many names for the different kinds of tea. Sencha, developed around the middle of the 18th century and the most common type of green tea in Japan, is about 90% of the crop. Sencha has an astringent flavor much loved by the people, who drink it constantly. It is also good for the health. Gyokuro, cultivated around the middle of the 19th century, is a very high grade tea and is milder than sencha. Macha is powdered green tea which is strong and used in the tea ceremony. Bancha is low quality tea. There are others, but the above are the most familiar.


Macha is the oldest type to exist in Japan. To prepare it for use, it was ground in the traditional way among good tea shops, using stone mills. It is rather bitter and not well-liked among foreign people, as a rule. Drinking tea was not common among the people until this century when the technology improved so it was economical enough, through mass production, for the people to buy and enjoy it. Other types of tea were drunk, some of which are still with us.


The grains used for popular teas probably included wheat and oats. Mugi-cha (oat tea) may have been the first national tea drink of Japan. Tea had to be imported from China and the price was high. It was an imported product for over 500 years and that is unbelievable in what we now know Japan to be capable of.


These days we can find tea plantations everywhere. They are small, but it seems every farmer has one. The drinking of tea used to be reserved for the nobles, elite persons and people of the temples, due to its cost. The temples raised it, so they could drink it freely and their patrons, rich and elite alike, could get it because they contributed much money to the temples. The Way of Tea is still practiced by many young people and others because it gives them peace of mind and a chance to meet friends in a pleasant atmosphere.

今日では、至る所で茶畑を目にすることができます。小さなものですが、すべての農家が茶畑を所有しているかのように見えます。その昔、お茶は高価だったため、お茶を飲むのは貴族や名士、および僧侶といった人たちに限られていました。寺院では、お茶の栽培が行われていたため、僧侶、寺院に大量のお金を寄付していた支援者や上記のような人たちは自由にお茶を飲むことができたのです。 茶道は心を穏やかにし、心地よい雰囲気の中で友人と出会えることから、現在でも多くの若い人やそのほかの人たちが続けています。

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