Tea made its way to Japan from China around the 7th century. Monks studying Buddhism brought back tea (Camellia sinensis) seeds from journeys to China. Thus, Zen teachings provided the foundation for the development of Japanese tea culture. It was accepted that rituals surrounding preparation and drinking of tea could lead to enlightenment.

Over time appreciation of tea extended from temples and nobles to include all of society. This is expressed in Genmaicha tea, where tea leaves blend with roasted rice. This creation intended to stretch tea supplies and lower costs. However, the sweet, toasty aroma and buttery taste led it to become a beloved tea in Japan and around the world.

Today tea remains an inseparable part of Japanese culture, having influenced architecture, cuisine, ceramics, and etiquette. Through tea, guests are shown hospitality.

Japanese teas are unique and refined, with green being the most popular. Much effort goes into farming, processing and preparing. This results in steeps described as 'umami', one of the five basic categories of human taste. Although we do not have a word to describe this taste in English language, the teas offers a rough translation by encapsulating the umami quality.

For some, green tea may seem too bitter to appreciate, but this is where ceremonial philosophy comes into play. One aspect of ceremony is attention to detail in harmony with the Zen concept of living in the moment. To prevent bitterness and highlight umami flavour, presence is required during preparation. Green tea requires lower steeping temperature (85-95 degrees) and shorter steep times (sometimes less than 2 minutes).

Although, not all Japanese teas require the same. Kukicha, which is made from the twigs of the tea plant, provides an easy brew. Temperature and time require less attention and the outcome is a satisfying steep. Both flavour and caffeine are milder in Kukicha.

Hojicha then combines twigs and leaves. Westholme’s Canadian Quail’s Plume tea is inspired by Hojicha.

With many tea styles and thousands of years history, Japanese teas express the uniqueness of tea culture in Japan.

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