In the late Kamakura Period, tea trees were being planted throughout Japan. However, there were great differences in quality depending on the place of origin. Tea produced in Togano’o (outside Kyoto) was considered the best, and was referred to as “honcha” (main tea). Other teas were referred to as “hicha” (other tea). Togano’o is known for its oldest tea field at Ko’uzan-ji.
“To’ucha” (battle of teas) originated as a play to differentiate honcha and hicha. The quality of tea from Uji improved, and later came to be treated as honcha along with Togano’o’s tea. With the establishment of wabi tea under Juko’u Murata, Jo’u’o’u Takeno and Rikyu Sen, “to’ucha” was gradually excluded for its focus on entertainment or gambling. And yet trendsetters of the time (known as kabukimono) continue to practice it as “Kabukicha.” In the 17th century, it was picked up as one of the seven disciplines (“Shichijishiki“) of the Sen family, and “to’ucha” finally became part of wabi tea as “chakabuki.”
“Chakabuki” is a ceremony similar to “to’ucha” in which the host first prepares two types of “shicha” (sample tea). The guests tastes them, and the host then serves three bowls of “honcha” (main tea). Two bowls contain the same as the earlier samples, and the third bowl has a tea not tasted before. The guests must divine each.