The story of how matcha became widely appreciated begins with a journey of a Japanese Zen monk named Eisai as he traveled to China on a spiritual quest. During his journey, he learned that monks used green tea to stay awake during long hours of meditation. This made such an impression on him that he returned to Japan with the seeds. After planting tea shrubs in a southern mountainous region, he gifted a jar of seeds to a high priest. This priest loved the tea so much, he became a regular tea drinker and planted tea fields around his temple. (The fields still remain today.) He encouraged other monks to do the same and the practice of tea-drinking spread quickly. The plants he grew near his temple were transferred to Uji, where the growing, drying and steaming processes were so perfected, the area became the center of premium matcha production and remains so to this day.
Eisai was so pleased with the nutritional benefits of his re-discovery that he wrote a pamphlet titled How Tea Drinking is Good for Health, in which he praised the virtues of tea. He opened his pamphlet by saying, “Tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete.” It will “remedy all disorders,” he promised.
We now know that not every human disease can be cured with tea, but the breadth of green tea’s nutritional and medicinal benefits is still astounding. Matcha is the best form of Eisai’s promise because the consumption of the entire leaf maximizes the benefits of the plant. Recent studies of L-theanine have supported many claims of ancient sources, leading to a renewed interest in matcha-drinking.The growing interest is apropos to the rigorous demands of modern-day life.