Monday, March 26, 2012

Which tea has the longest history, sencha, gyokuro or matcha?

Do you know since when we have been drinking tea in Japan? 

I have attended a lecture for Japanese tea history.  I learned that some classic beliefs don’t have corroborative evidences, and some of them may not be true.  This lecture taught the history by introducing historical sources of the time.  It was pretty interesting and I learned the modern understanding of the history.

The oldest historical paper about tea is Nihonkoki.  In the document, it is said “Eichu served tea to the Emperor” (815A.D.).  You cannot tell exactly what kind of tea it was, but it was decocted tea.  So, you can say that the history of our tea started about 1200 years ago, at least.   

Then, what do you think of the question in the title of this entry?  When the teas that we enjoy nowadays: sencha, gyokuro or matcha were born?  (If you are not familiar with these teas, look at the note at the bottom of this entry)  Which has the longest history?   Tea cultures were originally introduced from China at times, and they were uniquely developed in Japan.  We created sencha, gyokuro and matcha here.

The answer is : (From the oldest)
Matcha - around the 16th century
Sencha - around the 18th century
Gyokuro – around the early 19th century

Matcha is the oldest, and surprisingly gyokuro is yougest in the tea history. 

We had powdered tea that is prepared by mixing hot water since 12th century, but its tea plants were grew only under the sun.  I guess the people were drinking much bitterer tea than now (^^;;  The matcha with covering cultivation like nowadays were started around the 16th.  At the beginning, the covering cultivation was not for improving the taste, it is originally to prevent frost damage.

The tea has been improved in the long history.  You can say that canned and bottled teas are inventions of our contemporary time.  I’m looking forward to new tea!


Most common green tea
Needle shaped leaf
Brewing in a teapot
Premium green tea
Powdered green tea
Milled powder
Mixing with hot water


  1. I am interested in the history of tea and Bancha tea.
    I was also drawn into the story of Ms.Hashimoto.

    1. Have you also had a chance to listen to her? Her lecture is like reading a well-written book, isn’t it? Her story has proofs with historical materials, which make the lecture very interesting and fascinate the audiences, I think (^^)