Life Beyond the Tea Bag – January 2015

Diane Eddy

Tea is grown and consumed differently in Japan than in China and other countries. At approximately the same time that tea became known to Tibetans in 641 AD, contact between Zen priests and Chinese Buddhist monks facilitated the introduction of tea into Japan. After living in China for some years, the priest, Saichô, returned to Japan and served boiled tea cake to the Emperor Saga, who ordered tea bushes planted and maintained for the exclusive use of the emperor’s court and nearby temples. It would be several centuries later before tea evolved into the complex and gracious ritual we know today.

In the years of Japan’s Heian era (794-1185 AD), Japan’s samurai class began its rise to power, as intellectual and artistic pursuits flourished. During this time, Japanese monks traveled and studied in China’s great Buddhist temples. Tea rituals, preparation and tea drinking were among the many pursuits they assimilated and came to enjoy. Around 1191, the Zen priest, Eisai, brought tea seeds and bushes back to Japan, where they spread from the southern island of Kyushu to the outskirts of modern-day Kyoto. Eisai is credited with advocating and popularizing tea drinking for its healthful benefits.

Japan is famous for its heritage of steamed green teas, powdered Matcha tea and its highly mechanized growing and production methods. Steaming preserves the tea leaf’s natural enzymes and dark, rich green color. The flavors of Japanese teas are uniquely vegetal, sweet, clean and crisp. Japan also produces the powdered Matcha tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony known as Chanoyu.

On January 20 Diane Eddy, Certified Tea Professional, will lead a tea tasting class that explores the history, origins and production of these exciting and intriguing Japanese teas. We will be pairing Japanese green teas with the tasty, artistic and beautiful confections known as Wagashi during this special journey with tea-loving friends. Come join us in exploring the complex world of fine Japanese tea and its intriguing story.

Whether you are a tea enthusiast or a tea novice, Diane invites you to join her January 20 tea tasting class, at the Sun Lakes Country Club Navajo Room. Class is from 10:00 a.m.-noon. The cost for the class is $4 and each student should bring a teacup and saucer.

Class size is limited and reservations are necessary. Please call Diane at 480-266-5562 or send an e-mail to [email protected] for more information and reservations.