Matcha, while seemingly new to the American diet, dates back to the Tang Dynasty which spanned 7th to 10th century China. In order to ease the transportation and trade of their tea harvests, The Tang Dynasty steamed tea leaves to form bricks through roasting and pulverizing the leaves and then mixing the resulting tea powder with water and salt -- in the process of doing so, creating matcha. However, the Song Dynasty, reigning between the 10th and 13th centuries, is often credited with popularization of matcha. It was, under the reign of the Song Dynasty, when Buddhist Monk, Myoan Eisai, first discovered the drink and brought it to Japan.
Myoan Eisai (1141-1215)
Myoan Eisai spent most his life studying Buddhism in China. There, he found drinking matcha to improve his zen meditation sessions. Matcha -- through what we now recognize as the interaction between caffeine and L-theanine -- produced within Eisai a calm state of awareness. When he returned permanently back to Japan, Eisai brought along tea seeds and the knowledge of how to prepare matcha. He planted the tea seeds on the temple grounds in Kyoto and, by doing so, permanently planted matcha in Japanese culture.
In Japan, drinking matcha was used not only as tool for meditation, but became a meditative practice and art form in and of itself. Over centuries the Japanese tea ceremony, which survives to this day, was conceived.
A Japanese tea ceremony in the 1900's.
During the Japanese tea ceremony, matcha is prepared and presented. While seemingly simple, the ceremony’s protocol is defined down to exact hand movements, which one must study for years. It is in the tea ceremony’s radical simplicity, where one perceives the beauty of it. Properly conducted, harmony arises between the ceremony’s host and their guests. The host eases the minds of the guests, and reminds them of the balance between nature and perfect human activity.
Today, many of these guests that often witness the Japanese tea ceremony are tourists. What they take away, is how much history, tradition, and practice, goes in to a simple thing such as tea. They become, momentarily detached from their own egos, and immersed in the greatness of a thing as little as a tea leaf.
We recommend enjoying matcha tea, or a matcha latte, together with a Rip Van Wafel. A simple, yet powerful combo. Like the hosts of Japanese tea ceremonies, at Rip Van, we examine every single ingredient to perfection, from brewing the caramel to making the dough. Take a break and really savor the experience.