Episode 445 – A Bowl for a Coin

This week: we tend to think of tea in terms of the tea ceremony and fancy culture, but what about lowbrows like me who like to drink our tea bottled from a vending machine? This week we’ll be looking at tea as a commodity, and how it became a staple of Japan’s consumer culture.


Farris, William Wayne. A Bowl for a Coin: A Commodity History of Japanese Tea

Higuchi, Yoshihiro. “History of the Development of Beverage Vending Machine Technology in Japan.” National Museum of Nature and Science: Survey Reports on the Systemization of Technologies Vol.7, March 2007

Howell, David. “Hard Times in the Kanto: Economic Change and Village Life in Late Tokugawa Japan.” Modern Asian Studies 23, No 2 (1989)


A yakken (sometimes read ‘yagen’) or druggist’s mortar. Used until the 1300s to prepare tea in Japan.
Matcha, or tea powder, as prepared in a chausu.
Sencha today is the most popular variant of tea in the country; it was developed during the Edo period.
A chausu, or tea grinder, being used. The chausu radically improves the flavor and texture of tea by grinding it much more thinly and thus making it far more palatable.
A tea house in Uji, still considered the heart of Japan’s tea industry.
Even the postboxes in Uji are big on tea! This one has been modeled after a tea caddy.
Tea fields outside Uji.


1 thought on “Episode 445 – A Bowl for a Coin”

  1. Matcha is just too bitter for me, so finely ground may not be better. Sencha and genmaicha are GOAT.

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