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Matcha Whisk Chasen Round Up

In the past we have written about our favorite tea sets. Today we dive into the world of the Matcha whisk chasen.

Why Whisk Matcha?

Whisking matcha reduces bitterness and brings out the sweetness in the tea. It also adds a frothy texture to the tea which is more fun! It gives the tea a “luxuriousness”, similar to that created by the “crema” layer on the top of a well made black coffee. There are also obvious parallels with cafe latte or cafe ole froth.

How to Whisk Matcha?

Use a Japanese whisk called a Chasen 茶筅, “cha”茶, of course, meaning tea. 

Before you start, do a “Chasen Toushi”茶筅通し, which means to wet the chasen in warm water in preparation. Giving it a few swishes for a few seconds in the water from the pot is enough.

Mix fast in an up-and-down, “M” shaped motion. When bubbles have formed Japanese people say to change the mixing shape from that of a letter “M” to the Japanese letter “の”, which is a more circular motion, and raise the whisk higher as you do it. When you’re done, pull the whisk out from the centre of the tea in a perpendicular motion, so that the surface of the tea looks nice and you don’t make a mess!

 

What to look for when buying a chasen bamboo whisk?

Traditionally, chasen are made from bamboo. These range from cheap to as much as you want to pay really. Serious tea masters will have a quiver of chasen for different occasions, such as chasen made of “blue bamboo” for the first tea ceremony of the new year.

bamboo takes a lot of care and will wear out over time, so you will need to buy new ones every now and then if you use them regularly. It helps to use a “Chasen Tate” or whisk-stand to put the chasen on when you’re not using it to help it keep its shape.

More recently, there are chasen made of metal or resin that can stand more extended everyday use. These may be more practical for people that want them purely for utilitarian purposes, but are considered less “refined”.

As with all traditional arts in Japan, there are different “schools” or “houses”, called ryuha in Japanese, of tea. The different schools tend to prefer certain types of chasen made from different types of bamboo. The three big “sen” (thousand) schools and their choice of chasen are:

 

  • House of Omote – Susudake bamboo
  • House of Urasen – Hachiku bamboo or white bamboo
  • Musyakojisenke – Shichiku bamboo or black bamboo
 
 

How many teeth for your matcha tea whisk?

For beginner tea makers, it is usually recommended that people use a chasen with about 90-100 teeth (called 穂 “ho” in Japanese). More advanced people may use a whisk with around 120 ho. This is because more advanced tea masters often use thicker teas which need the chasen with more teeth, but which also require a certain knack to be able to use.
Often, choices by different tea houses come down to a preference that may have been made by a venerable teacher far in the past that has become a learn-by-rote rule over time.
The making of tea is a deep, deep rabbit whole that you can go down if you want to.

 

How to make matcha tea without whisk?

Really, making tea can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. Making matcha can be as easy as slapping some powder in a bowl and giving it a quick mix up with a spoon. At the heart of the Japanese fastidious approach to tea making is the zen influenced concept of appreciating the little details of everyday life. How you stir up a cup of tea can be as significant an act as anything else. But it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The point here is not to obsess over the details. But do appreciate the little things.Often, choices by different tea houses come down to a preference that may have been made by a venerable teacher far in the past that has become a learn-by-rote rule over time.
The making of tea is a deep, deep rabbit whole that you can go down if you want to.

 

Recommended Matcha Whisks

Whisks available from various providers

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Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student and on working holiday, have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

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