Tea Staining
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Tea Staining

There are no historical records as to which came first Japanese or Chinese tea staining. However, if you follow the general patterns of east Asian cultures, there is a general tendency for tea staining to flow from China into Korea and then Japan. This is because tea was first drank and researched on by the Chinese.

Tea like many other cultures from China were first imported into Japan during Tang dynasty in large quantities. They came through Korea just like the art of pottery.

Tea stained clothing items were not considered that avant garde in Chinese civilizations starting from Tang. This was because of the greater fascination for silk and dyeing using flower dyes and other forms of dyes instead. Tea staining was only appreciated by a small minority.

Although all tea plants originate from the species of camelia sinensis, only green tea powder is really suitable for dying as green tea powder due to its manufacturing process is able to retain the green color for dying purposes. Oolong tea for example having gone through fermentation and pan frying has lost most of the properties of green and they are charred dry brittle leaves to begin with.

Thus, green tea which really originates from central China was utilized as a form of dye in that region. Central China would mean Hangzhou, Shanghai, Suzhou etc. They are used to dye fabrics like handkerchief, clothing, scarves etc.

Then this spread to Korea and Japan. Korea and Japan developed their own types of tea staining and they developed the art further. It won more acclaim in those countries. However, silk and other dyes were more popular still as red, yellow, orange colours were still more popular than say green.

Tea staining is a dying art in China and barely surviving in Korea. This is because of the onset of modern techniques of mass manufacturing process for dyeing. However, it is still being advanced in Japan in certain towns which are now famous for tea staining methods. They include certain towns in Kyushu the southern part of Japan where green tea is extensively grown and certain parts near Tokyo. Tourists can visit these places and buy tea stained items like handkerchief scarfs etc.

The process is simple. Green tea is made into a powder form. And they are concentrated and mixed in a solution. Hot water is also mixed into the solution. Clothes are then dipped into a wooden bucket with the dye. The parts that are not meant to be dyed are carefully tied up to avoid the mixture. And then the dyed clothes are left out to dry. The colours then stays permanent.


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