Sometimes it is hard to look at green tea without considering its medicinal properties. In fact, Japanese green tea has many uses not all of us are aware of. After all, when tea was reaching its popularity in China and soon after brought to Japan, it wasn’t just seen as an enjoyable beverage but as a valuable medicine.
Brief History on the Uses of Green Tea
The Chinese Emperor Shenong, who was known to discover tea in 2700 BC, was the father of medicine, and tea was an indispensable part of his practice. If we look at how tea was brewed thousands of years ago in China (crushed and boiled for an extended period of time with spices, dried orange peel, and scallions), we can tell that it was not brewed so much for taste, but for its medicinal properties.
During the Tang Dynasty, as agriculture progressed and cultivation methods improved farmers were learning how to make the best, delicious strains of tea fit for the emperor’s enjoyment.
In Japan, the father of Japanese tea culture was a Buddhist monk known as Eisai.
He popularized drinking tea in Japan during the 1200s and planted tea bushes around the temples surrounding Kyoto.
Eisai gave tea to the shoguns suffering from hangovers and other highly ranked officials with different ailments. The benefits of this drink became clearly known to many.
Eisai would encourage people to drink green tea. Before tea, there were no bitter foods in the Japanese diet. Eisai said that bitterness is crucial for a balanced diet and is beneficial for heart health.
This is how tea was first known as a medicinal drink in Japan, more than anything else.
It wasn’t until later that tea ceremonies were developed for the enjoyment of tea and “tea gambling games” became a big part of the culture.
Despite tea being more popular for its exquisite taste, relaxing and enjoyable properties more than anything else, the Japanese population still regards it as a healthy drink. There is even a Japanese saying that to ensure good health green tea must be drunk every day.
How to Use Japanese Green Tea
In fact, this “bitterness” that Eisai spoke of comes from the number of catechins in green tea, which Japanese green teas are known to have a lot of, with sencha having the most of all Japanese tea types. Here are some uses of Japanese green tea where the bountiful properties become useful, aside from regular consumption.
- Catechins are well known in Japan to have anti-fungal properties. Traditionally, a cloth soaked in Japanese green tea is used to wipe babies making their skin smooth and protecting it from any microbes.
- Another way is to gargle with Japanese green teas to prevent sickness and infections. It is also one of the reasons why in Japan people drink green tea after a meal (rarely during), since green tea prevents the spread of microbes in the mouth and freshens the breath.
- If you have a steel item that is prone to rust, try rubbing it with used green tea leaves before it acquires any rust. They are known to prevent rust from appearing.
- Another use is to collect the used green tea leaves and rub them on your face and skin directly to promote healthy and clean skin (some might find it easier to blend into a paste first).
Find out more uses for brewed tea leaves by reading our article What to do With Used Tea Leaves: Chagra and the Concept of Mottainai.
And no matter what you choose to use your Japanese green tea for, there are always plenty of uses besides drinking it for pleasure, and there is never a need to let the brewed tea leaves go to waste.
Enjoy, experiment, and have fun. And please do get back to us and let us know if any of these tips and suggestions have come in useful!
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- Tags: chagra, chinese medicine, eisai, history, Japan, japanese, japanese green tea, medicine, sencha, tea leaves