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Tea seeds were first brought to Japan in the early 9th century by the Buddhist monks Saicho and Kukai. During the Heian period (794–1185), Emperor Saga introduced the practice of drinking tea to the imperial family. The Zen Buddhist priest Eisai (1141–1215), founder of the Rinzai school of Buddhism, brought tea seeds from China to plant in various places in Japan. Eisai advocated that all people, not just Buddhist monks and the elite, drink tea for its health benefits.
In January 2015, we wrote about the rapid rise of matcha on the American beverage landscape and posed the question, “Have we reached maximum matcha saturation?” Three years later, we're living amid matcha croissants, matcha custard pie, matcha face masks, matcha lifestyle guides and $50 cups of matcha itself. Clearly, the answer was "No." But what is this powder we're whisking into green lattes, baking into doughnuts, blending into smoothies, and adding to our fish fillets?
On 17 June 2011, at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France, radioactive cesium of 1,038 becquerels per kilogram was measured in tea leaves imported from Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan as a result of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster on 11 March, which was more than twice the restricted amount in the European Union of 500 becquerels per kilogram. The government of France announced that they rejected the leaves, which totaled 162 kilograms (357 lb).
A book written by Lu Yu in 600-900 AD (Tang Dynasty), "Tea Classic" (simplified Chinese: 茶经; traditional Chinese: 茶經; pinyin: chájīng), is considered important in green tea history. The Kissa Yojoki (喫茶養生記 Book of Tea), written by Zen priest Eisai in 1211, describes how drinking green tea may affect five vital organs, the shapes of tea plants, flowers and leaves, and how to grow and process tea leaves.
Rooibos tea is anti-inflammatory in nature, which means that it reduces blood pressure and scavenges free radicals like other antioxidants. Quercetin, another powerful antioxidant found in rooibos tea, has been linked to preventing a wide variety of heart conditions. It promotes an increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and inhibits the LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) from binding to the walls of arteries and blood vessels.
The use of matcha in modern drinks has also spread to North American cafés, such as Starbucks, which introduced "Green Tea Lattes" and other matcha-flavoured drinks after matcha became successful in their Japanese store locations. As in Japan, it has become integrated into lattes, iced drinks, milkshakes, and smoothies. A number of cafes have introduced lattes and iced drinks using matcha powder. It has also been incorporated into alcoholic beverages such as liqueurs and matcha green tea beers.
Tea culture of Korea was actively suppressed by the Japanese during the Japanese forced occupation period (1910‒1945), and the subsequent Korean War (1950‒1953) made it even harder for the Korean tea tradition to survive. The restoration of the Korean way of tea began in the 1970s, around Dasolsa. Commercial production of green tea in South Korea only began in the 1970s,. By 2012 the industry was producing 20% as much tea as Taiwan and 3.5% as much as Japan. Green tea is not as popular as coffee or other types of Korean teas in modern South Korea. The annual consumption per capita of green tea in South Korea in 2016 was 0.16 kg (0.35 lb), compared to 3.9 kg (8.6 lb) coffee. Recently however, as the coffee market reached saturation point, South Korean tea production doubled during 2010‒2014, as did tea imports during 2009-2015, despite very high tariff rate (513.6% for green tea, compared to 40% for black tea, 8% for processed/roasted coffee, and 2% for raw coffee beans).