History of Tea in Japan
The first written account of tea in Japan dates back to the beginning of the ninth century. Japanese monks that travelled to China brought it back with them. Tea was mainly drunk as medicine at that time and was only available to the upper class.
Later, at the end of the twelfth century, tea was reintroduced in the form of matcha for religious purposes by Eisai, the founder of Zen Buddhism. Eisai also wrote Kissayôjôki , the first Japanese book on tea that describes the beneficial influence of tea on health. This book greatly stimulated the popularity of tea. Over the years, tea found its way to a larger public, especially when new ways to process tea were developed.
In the fifteenth century the Chinese kamairicha method, producing tea by pan-firing tea, was introduced to Kyusu in the south of Japan . This remained the way to produce tea until the eighteenth century. In 1738 Sôen Nagatani of Uji invented a method to steam and rub tea. This revolutionary invention became the starting point of the production of typical Japanese sencha and gyokuro. The production process has been largely improved and automated since then, but the basic process has remained the same.
History of J-PORT and its Tea Producers
J-PORT was established in 2001 by Renée Pompen. She has studied and worked in Japan . After a career in marketing research and sales and marketing, mostly in the Japanese food business, she decided it was time to set up an import business for Japanese green tea.
J-PORT's suppliers have a much longer history. Being all family businesses, their tradition and skills have been handed over from father to son. All have won prestigious prizes for their wonderful tea.
Aikawa Seichaho is the youngest of the three: it was established in 1897. Teamaster Aikawa is the fourth-generation Gentaro Aikawa.
Next is Otsuka Seicha, which establishment dates back to 1868, in the first year of the Meiji Period. At that time Japan shifted to a modern society in which there were no longer samurai needed. The founder of Otsuka Seicha, Genpei Otsuka, was a samurai who was granted a piece of land for the cultivation of tea by the vassal of Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa.
The oldest J-PORT supplier is Shouhokuen, owned by the Sugimoto family, which was established in 1645. In 1915, on the occasion of the enthronement of Emperor Taisho, Shohokuen was appointed to supply tea to the Imperial Household. Each year in November, at the tea ceremony of Kyoto's Kitano Tenmangu Shrine to commemorate the grand tea ceremony party of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, pots ( tsubo ) in which the highest quality matcha of that year has matured, will be cut open. The pot containing matcha produced in Kohata, where Shouhokuen's tea gardens are located, will be the first pot to be opened, which is a great honour.