In this tea house, take a moment and enjoy some tea. It is said matcha tea has a deep connection with Zen Buddhism, as the practice of drinking tea was made popular by the founders of the Rinzai sect, Zenji Eisai and Kokushi Shoichi. In those days, tea was more a sort of medicine than a luxury item, filled with vitamins and even caffeine to sharpen the mind. After all, Zazen meditation can make us a bit sleepy at times,so tea was there to keep the practitioners awake.
In the past, Zen Buddhism was supported by the samurai and it held an inextricable bond with matcha. This would explain why so many daimyō, or feudal lords, also enjoyed green tea, like Hideyoshi Toyotomi who employed Sen-no-Rikyū,a master of tea ceremonies at the time.
Incidentally, there is a hidden tea room in Taizō-in Temple called “Kakoi-no-Seki.” Though tea itself was not disagreeable per se, at Myōshin-ji Temple, which specialized in ascetic training, tea ceremony was more of a distraction. This hidden room was built at a time when tea ceremony was actually banned. However, there were many monks who still craved tea, and they created this room so that Senzan, the head monk of the temple at the time, would not realize it was a tea room from the outside. This shows how fond people were of tea in those days.
Even if it was the same tea we drink, the people perceived it differently in those times. What are your thoughts about matcha tea? Words can’t do its flavor justice, so matcha is best understood through experience so why don’t you try it yourself?
The teacakes, by the way, are an original design made in cooperation between Taizō-in Temple and an old confectionary in Kyoto called Oimatsu. They are semi-baked and have seasonal dry fruits inside, coupling the sweetness of the cake with a faint sourness. They also incorporate the concept of the Hyōnen-zu scroll with their decorative gourds and catfish. Like a zenmondō experience, it is impossible to know what lies inside just by looking at it.