Green Tea Plants as Medicine
Green tea plants were originated in a place called Yunnan Province, located in China. It was then spread by the Chinese to other regions of Asia where they thought the weather conditions and the soil was right. Before becoming a popular drink, tea leaves were used as medicine. As a matter of fact, pickled tea leaves are still eaten in some hill tribes in northern Myanmar, Thailand, and southern China.
Green Tea in China
The custom of drinking tea was originated with the emperor Shen Nong in China. Shen Nong was an iconoclast of Chinese medicine. In year 2700 B.C., he introduced the tea plant to people. A monograph named “Cha jing” commonly known as “The Classic of Tea”, verifies Shen Nong’s work to discover the medical efficacy of more than 300 varieties of grass, roots, and tree barks. According to legend, he would try all the roots, grass, etc. on himself, and whenever he ate something toxic, he would cleanse himself by eating tea leaves.
The popularity of tea increased during the period of Three Kingdoms (221-65). Practice of Buddhism was a major cause as drinking alcohol is prohibited in Buddhism, so that increased the demand for tea. However, green tea was quite expensive at that time and was exclusive only to the high society. In the mid-eighth century, tea shops sprung up and made the tea a mandatory drink for ordinary citizens of China.
Green Tea in Japan
Tea arrived in Japan in the early Heian Period (794-1185). It was brought by Japanese Buddhist monks who traveled to China along with some regime representatives. Among the monks were Kukai, Saicho, and Eichu. The first record of tea-drinking custom in Japan appeared in a book named “Nihon koki” commonly known as “Notes on Japan.” In 815, Eichu returned to China. According to Nihon koki records, Eichu invited Emperor Saga to his temple and served him green tea (sencha). An anthology of Chinese poetry named “Roun-shu”, written in 814, also mentions tea-tasting.
Ordinary Japanese people began to drink green tea much later. A new way of drinking tea was introduced after a famous Zen Priest known as Eisai (1141-1215) brought back a special kind of seedling from China. This new way was called the “matcha style.” With his book “Kissa yojoki” commonly known as “How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea”, Eisai encouraged people to cultivate tea trees. He was responsible for the launch of tea in Japan on a large scale.
Green Tea in the West
It took nearly a thousand years for green tea to leave Asia. During the year 1610, the first export of green tea happened from Japan by the Dutch East India Company. And as a result, green tea arrived in the West.
Since then, many variants of tea have been created. However, original green tea can still be enjoyed today.
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