Matcha as we know it is very much a Japanese phenomenon, where it has played an integral role in their culture since the 12th century, and tea masters have perfected the art of its cultivation and craft. Its history stretches back even further, however.
As far back as the 8th century, Zen monks in China were the first to develop the process of pulverizing green tea leaves (which had first been steamed, then dried, then packed into tight molds for easy portability).
Around the year 1190, a Japanese Buddhist monk named Eisai Myoan visited China and fell in love with this unique manner of enjoying tea, and was the first to bring matcha back to Japan.
Very quickly, matcha spread throughout Zen monasteries in Japan, once monks found that it kept them awake and alert during long periods of meditation, in addition to having valuable medicinal properties.
As the centuries progressed, interest in matcha in China waned, slowly replaced by other forms of Chinese tea that grew more popular.
In Japan, however, matcha became a cultural focal point through a very formal ceremony known as “chado”, as well as a staple part of their diet. The expert cultivation and traditional methods of shade growing and stone grinding were perfected by Japanese tea masters and passed down through generations.
Today, the popularity of matcha has never been greater or more widespread as the world has finally taken note of this Japanese treasure.