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Ian Ropke writes…
Mention tea ceremony and most Japanese will think of chanoyu, the way of tea based on a ritual for drinking the powdered green tea called matcha, which was formalized by Sen no RikyÅ« in the sixteenth century. Much closer to everyday life yet unknown to a surprising number of Japanese is the way of tea for sencha, or leaf green tea.
For history, Japan cannot touch China, where the legendary Emperor Shen Nung, said to have lived some five thousand years ago, is credited with first discovering that tea could be drunk. When it comes to ritual, however, Japan probably ranks first in the annals of tea.
The kissa, or tea, first brought to Japan from China in the seventh century was in the form of black tea leaves pressed together and shaped into small balls, which were used to make infusions. For T’ang Chinese (618-907), drinking tea was a part of a carefully cultivated atmosphere which embraced writing or reciting poetry, doing calligraphy, and looking at art. The Heian (794-1185) aristocrats of Japan, in their rush to embrace all things new and Chinese, adopted both tea and its attendant cultural atmosphere. [Read more…]