Japanese tea culture through time

Japanese tea culture through time

Tea has long been part and parcel of Japanese culture. We could even say that Japan and tea are inseparable. Over the centuries, the role of tea in Japanese society has undergone many changes, but tea has always remained close to the hearts of Japanese people. Let’s take a look at Japanese tea and how this cultural symbol has transformed through time.

Historical tea consumption in Japan

It is said that tea consumption originated in Japan as early as the 8th century, when tea was first brought over to Japan from China. In those days, tea was mainly enjoyed by Japanese priests, until it became the beverage of choice with the royal classes under Emperor Saga’s rule. Tea production continued to flourish, and in the 13th and 14th centuries, the iconic Japanese tea ceremony emerged. This ceremony involves several rituals, in which every object and movement has deep aesthetic meaning. Those who mastered the tea ceremony were considered refined and cultured. In the 19th century onwards, industrialization made tea the staple of everyday Japanese people, and what was once reserved for the elite and learned came into the hands of many.

Modern tea culture

Although ancient tea culture continues to be preserved, only a small fraction of the population practices the traditional tea ceremony. Instead, tea lives on as a casual beverage, and it often reinvents itself to meet the needs and demands of modern Japanese people. Clay teapots and teaware are no longer as common, with bottled teas like Juroku Cha emerging as the gold standard in both urban and rural areas. This is especially true for the younger generation. Even on a cold winter evening, young people are likely to reach for a hot bottled tea from the nearest vending machine, which is almost always in supply of an assortment of different tea beverages.

Another trend with tea is tea-flavored sweets, snacks, and food items. It is common to find tea-flavored chocolate, soymilk, cookies, candies, and other sweet and savory goods in supermarkets and convenience stores. Some Japanese people take it even further. They invent their own tea-flavored recipes and share them on social media platforms and cooking applications. Sure, you can find your standard tea lattes and tea pudding recipes, but there’s a plethora of offbeat combinations like tea-flavored tempura and tea-infused pasta. With a food culture like Japan’s, the possibilities seem endless!

Ready to give bottled Japanese tea a try? Get the experience with Juroku Cha, now available on Amazon.

Want to know more about modern tea culture in Japan? Keep a lookout for our upcoming post on iced tea culture in Japan.