According to the Nihon Koki (Latter Chronical of Japan), drinking of tea was introduced to Japan in the 9th century, by the Buddhist monk Eichu, who had returned to Japan from China. This is the first documented evidence of tea in Japan. The entry in the Nihon Koki states that Eichu personally prepared and served sencha (unground Japanese green tea) to Emperor Saga who was on an excursion in Karasaki (in present Shiga Prefecture) in the year 815. By imperial order in the year 816, tea plantations began to be cultivated in the Kinki region of Japan.[1] However, the interest in tea in Japan faded after this.[2]
In China, tea had already been known, according to legend, for more than a thousand years. The form of tea popular in China in the era when Eichu went for studies was "cake tea" (dancha)—tea compressed into a nugget in the same manner as Pu-erh. This then would be ground in a mortar, and the resulting ground tea decocted together with various other herbs and/or flavorings.[3]
The custom of drinking tea, first for medicinal, and then largely also for pleasurable reasons, was already widespread throughout China. In the early 9th century, Chinese author Lu Yu wrote the The Classic of Tea, a treatise on tea focusing on its cultivation and preparation. Lu Yu's life had been heavily influenced by Buddhism, particularly the Zen–Ch├ín school.[citation needed] His ideas would have a strong influence in the development of the Japanese tea ceremony.[4]
Around the end of the 12th century, the style of tea preparation called "tencha", in which matcha was placed in a bowl, hot water poured into the bowl, and the tea and hot water whipped together, was introduced by Eisai, another Japanese monk returning from China. He also brought tea seeds back with him, which eventually produced tea that was of the most superb quality in all of Japan.[5]