One of the top ten tea producing regions in the world, Japan's history with the
plant is long and varied. Beginning in the Nara Period (710-794), the history of
tea in Japan became closely tied to its cultural identity. It's roots began in
religious circles, when monks brought back the leaf from China and it quickly
became the drink of the elite classes, only available as a luxury item in very
It was during this time that the first mention of a formal ceremony dedicated to
imbibing tea is found. It wasn't until the Muromachi Period (1333-1573) that tea
became popular among all social classes. People began to gather together to
celebrate the leaf in tea drinking parties. They would play games and show of
their prized teawares. These tea parties became more and more refined over time,
developing Zen-inspired components, and an emphasis on etiquette. It is in these
gatherings that we get the origins of the tea ceremony we have today.
The most popular teas consumed within Japan are its own homegrown green
teas. Japanese green teas are distinct, in that they are largely steamed
rather than pan-fired like Chinese greens and are from the three main
tea growing islands, including Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu.