How to make Matcha Tea?
The Japanese Matcha tea tradition is an offshoot of a much older Chinese preparation method.
In ancient china (Tang dynasty, around 620 CE) tea was produced in bricks (it still is today, but it’s handled differently). To produce the bricks the tea was steamed (as the Japanese now do, but the Chinese not so much), dried, and pressed into bricks.
Bricks are easier to transport than loose tea, they’re a known weight and can be traded as currency, etc.
Anyhoo, when it came time for drinking, they would break off a piece of the brick, toast it over a fire or charcoal (I’ve heard it said that this step was intended to ‘sanitize’ the tea, but I’m not convinced ancient Chinese used heat in this way), it was then ground in a grinder like this guy:
then it was whisked until frothy (sound familiar?) and then consumed while appreciating the foam and patterns.
SO! While grinding your tea won’t make matcha, (unless you happen to have some tencha laying around) preparing a tea in this way won’t be WRONG, per se. (It’s not very tasty though, I’ll warn you.)
I have heard someone tell me that ground kukicha isn’t all that bad. I don’t believe them. (^_−)−☆
As for the vitamix, blenders and the like don’t grind. They cut. So, it won’t be quite the same, though if you can achieve a very find ‘grind’ using the vitamix, have at ‘er. You can also use a mortar and pestle, but it’s a bit of a workout.
Modern matcha is grown in shade for about 6 to 8 weeks before it’s picked, it’s then steamed, deveined, and dried, at which point it’s called ‘tencha' (碾茶) the cha bit is ‘tea’, but the ‘ten’ part is interesting because the character used in Japanese to describe the tea is also the character in Chinese meaning ’to grind’. So, despite not yet being ground, the literal translation of tencha is ‘grind tea’.