Japanese Herb Series 2: The Tea Plant - The Source of Japan's Renowned Green Tea
Tea Plant Cultivation
The tea plant is used to produce green tea, Japan's renowned soul drink. Although it originates from Southwest China, it is cultivated across Japan, and some types have also come to grow in the wild.
Tea trees grow to a height of 7 to 8 meters in the wild, but cultivated tea trees are often pruned to about 1 meter. When used to produce green tea, young leaves are picked 3 times a year around late April to early May, late June, and August.
Japanese Tea Culture
The resurgence of the popularity of green tea in Japan during the Kamakura period gave birth to the unique Japanese tea ceremony. Japan’s tea culture developed through the addition of various cultural elements to the serving and drinking of matcha, which is made by drying green tea, grinding it with a stone mill, and pouring hot water into it.
The tradition of treating matcha to guests has gone beyond just enjoying the preparation and drinking of tea. It has developed into a comprehensive form of art, spanning a wide range of fields, such as life philosophies, ideologies, religion, and works of art to decorate tea utensils and tea ceremony rooms.
In present day Japan, Japanese tea generally refers to green tea brewed in a teapot instead of matcha. The tea leaves picked for the first time that year is called “first picked tea” or “new tea.” It exudes a fresh and distinct scent, color, and flavor unique to that season.
Until recently, every household in Japan had a specific teapot and teacups for green tea, and the act of preparing and drinking tea became a native custom. However, the number of people who drink green tea every day has been dwindling in Japan due to the popularization of various teas and coffees around the world that’s also spread to Japan.
In addition, due to the spread of green tea in plastic bottles, which can be quickly and conveniently enjoyed, going the extra mile of preparing tea is becoming rare.
Components and Health Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea, black tea, and oolong tea are all made by processing tea plant leaves, but they each have different flavors, colors, and components because they are oxidized at varying degrees. Since oxidization is prevented through heating for green tea, the green color of the leaves is preserved. While green tea also contains caffeine, like black tea and oolong tea do, it is said to be less invigorating because it also contains the amino acid “theanine,” which has a calming effect.
The catechin in green tea inhibits the increase of cholesterol levels, prevents cancer, has antibacterial effects, reduces allergic reactions, prevents teeth cavities, inhibits foul odor, and combats fatigue. Green tea is also abundant in vitamin C, among other vitamins, and can be used as a deterrent to colds and beautifying your skin.
Additionally, when added to cosmetics as tea leaf extract, it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and astringent effects. Since the Pineapple and Soy Milk Hair Removal Cream by Suzuki Herb Laboratory contains tea leaf extract, it helps maintain healthy skin after hair removal.
In Japan, there is a proverb stating, "drink your morning tea even if you need to cross seven villages." The belief was that morning tea warded off disasters, so if you forget to drink it before your journey, you should go back and drink it even if it means backtracking a long way. People believed that drinking tea was an excellent custom in the morning.
Green tea has many beneficial effects in the morning, such as invigoration (removing fatigue and sleepiness), antioxidation, prevention of foul breath (deodorization), and increased endurance. Add it to your routine to wake your body up and stay healthy.