Green tea is claimed to have been popularized in Japan around 1190, when a Zen priest visiting and studying in China’s great Buddhist monasteries and temples returned to Japan with tea plant seeds and bushes. The young priest, called Eisai, used his experience growing and drinking tea in China to popularize the way of tea as a meditation ritual within his own community of Buddhist monks, eventually spreading the custom of tea drinking throughout the rest of Japan. To this day, China and Japan are the top two green tea producing and exporting countries in the world.
Loose leaf green tea has been the most popular form of tea in China since at least the Southern Song dynasty. While Chinese green tea was originally steamed, as it still is in Japan, after the early Ming dynasty it has typically been processed by being pan-fired in a dry wok. Other processes employed in China today include oven-firing, basket-firing, tumble-drying and sun-drying. Green tea is the most widely produced form of tea in China, with 1.42 million tons grown in 2014.
Shade grown: All matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves—a labor-intensive process where tea bushes are protected from the sun and light is filtered to the bushes in a very controlled manor. Shading boosts the chlorophyll production in the plant, giving the leaves a rich green color. The lack of sun reduces the plant’s photosynthesis of the leaves, which in turn alters the naturally occurring levels of caffeine, flavanols, sugars, antioxidants, and theanine. By controlling the sun exposure, tea producers can significantly alter the chemical make-up and flavor of the final tea leaves.