A new powdered form of tea emerged during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Freshly picked tea-leaves were steamed to preserve color and freshness, then dried and ground into a fine powder called ‘tea mud’. The tea mud was placed in moulds, then pressed and left to harden. Later it was dried in the sun and then baked to prevent rotting. These ‘tea cakes’ were easy to store and transport. To make a cup of tea one would break off a little piece of the tea-cake and then whisk the tea powder up in a drinking bowl.
This way of processing and preparing tea was eventually abandoned in China. But in the early 8th century traveling Zen monks from Japan had begun to bring tea and tea seeds back with them and started growing tea plants in Japan. Soon the Japanese Zen priests began their own tradition of cultivating, processing and preparing powdered green tea – and thus Matcha was born.
It was in the 11th century that the Zen priest Esai initiated the cultivation of tea in Japan. His famous book about tea opens with the sentence: “Tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete.” In saying that, Esai was referring to Matcha, later to become Japan’s most treasured kind of green tea and the only tea to be used in the traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony (Sadō).
Sadō (‘The Way of Tea’) in its modern form was developed by Zen monks over the course of the 15th century and became popular with the Samurai society, royalty and Japan’s upper class. The teachings of the monk Sen-no Rikyu were the most influential, basing Sadō on the four principles of harmony, purity, tranquility and respect. In fact, DōMatcha® was created to honor this sacred tradition.
Today Japan only exports about 4% of its precious Matcha. It is not only a highly treasured specialty green tea, but also used frequently in Japanese cooking and baking, in health foods and western style beverage creations, like Matcha lattes and smoothies.