Japanese Tea history, What is Dancha?

In the history of Japanese tea, I learned that the first tea to be drunk in Japan was Dancha.
And now, there seems to be little custom of drinking Dancha in Japan.


I was curious, so I looked up what Dancha was.

It is said that Dancha, which was brought from the Tang Dynasty, is made by steaming tea, mashing it, and drying it in a mold. There are many kinds, and some of them are fermented.

Ship to Tang Dynasty from Nara, Japan

It seems that the tea that was introduced to Japan was fermented Dancha.
According to Hiraku Ogura, a fermentation designer, Dancha is a strange fermented food in the world where tea leaves are covered with a mold like malted rice and aged for a long time. It tastes like a thicker version of pu’erh tea, which is drunk in Yunnan Province, China. The tea leaves have been drained of their water content, and then hardened into a block shape. It looks completely different from the tea we drink nowadays.

Dancha was treasured as a tribute during the Tang Dynasty. There is a reason for this, too, as it was fermented and matured to keep it from deteriorating during the guests’ long journey back to their homeland.

Mr. Hiraku Ogura’s impression of tasting the dancha tea was, “I was frightened by the texture that was a step ahead of humus and the overpowering aroma, but when I took the plunge and took a sip, I remember being awakened as if I had been hit on the head, my heart racing, and sweat pouring out of my body. I remember my heart racing and sweat pouring out of my body. It was not an everyday food, but probably used as a medicine. And the price was eye-poppingly high.”

So it seems that it is not a familiar drink.

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