The Japanese tea ceremony, Chado, once only afforded to nobles of the early 12th century, has now become a frequent household ritual of global tea connoisseurs. The process is simple yet highly structured with five enduring elements: matcha, water, chawan (tea bowl), chasen (whisk), and chashaku (tea scoop). While each element is integral to producing a delicious cup of matcha, one utensil is at the heart of this traditional beverage’s preparation. Let’s talk about matcha whisks.
Information that is covered:
➢ Do you need a matcha whisk?
➢ How to select a matcha whisk?
➢ How to whisk matcha?
➢ How to clean a matcha whisk?
➢ How to store a matcha whisk?
DO YOU NEED A MATCHA WHISK?
The matcha whisk, also known as a chasen, is traditionally handcrafted from a single piece of bamboo and comes in a variety of thicknesses and string counts (“teeth” of the whisk). The purpose of the whisk is to coax the matcha into a uniform consistency as the powder tends to clump when coming into contact with water. Without using a traditional whisk in your preparation, you will likely miss out on the delicate nuances that only perfectly blended matcha with just the right amount of foam on top can offer.
The problem with matcha whisk alternatives
While there is only one authentic way to mix matcha powder and water, some inventive tea fans have relied on alternatives. Proponents may claim similar results to using a chasen, but the Japanese tea whisk’s functional design and aesthetic appeal cannot be matched. Let’s elaborate.
- Electric mixer (handheld milk frother) While likely the most common substitute for a traditional matcha whisk, electric mixers and milk frothers do not have fine enough whisks to effectively blend. Furthermore, you will not be able to achieve a smooth, even layer of foam. What you may save in time, you will more than lose in enjoyment.
- BlenderThe four founding principles of matcha — harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility — are hardly encapsulated in a modern appliance like a blender, even when making matcha for a crowd. The blades are too small to evenly mix the matcha and should be reserved for creating matcha-flavored drinks using culinary-grade tea powder.
- Fork or spoon Western utensils should be avoided as it is frustratingly difficult to break down the floating clumps of tea powder before the water temperature drops below an acceptable level.
HOW TO SELECT THE BEST MATCHA WHISK
With the global popularization of matcha, it’s easy to find cheap matcha whisks for sale through online Asian export shops. These mass-produced products manufactured in factories are almost always poorly made and break easily. When shopping for a chasen, it is important to understand that not all are made equal.
Matcha whisks made in Japan invariably offer better quality as the craftsman’s constant attention to detail shows through in each step — from carefully choosing the ideal piece of bamboo to meticulously cutting and shaping each time to uniform perfection.
There are several Japanese houses devoted to making chasen, including master craftsman Sabun Kubo whose family lineage of chasen makers can be traced back 24 generations. Today, the chasen made by Sabun Kubo has received recognition as a traditional craftwork by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in Japan as well as having the honor of being displayed at the Louvre Museum.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A MATCHA WHISK
Apart from the maker’s name, there are two factors to consider when buying a matcha whisk.
Bamboo quality The quality of the material has a great effect on the durability of the chasen. Respected Japanese craftsmen source their bamboo from trusted farms, resulting in high-quality whisks that last longer under the stresses of continued use.
String count The more strings a whisk has the finer they are, which creates a smoother matcha. You can find chasen being sold that offer a string count anywhere between 16 and 120. The higher the number, the easier it is to whisk the tea powder into the water and create the soft peak of foam. The lower the number, the longer it will take to whisk. The table below can help you decide what string count is best for your needs
ImageString CountMatcha TypeReasonChasen TypeRecommended Matcha Whisk 16-48 Koicha Because koicha is a thicker consistency, less strings are appropriate. Hiraho / 16 string chasenAraho / 36 string chasenChuaraho / 48 string chasen Chasen ChuarahoKubo Sabun 64 Koicha & Usucha If one matcha whisk will be used for both koicha and usucha, an intermediate string count is best. Tsuneho / 64 string chasen Shin ChasenKubo Sabun 68-120 Usucha Because usucha is a thinner consistency, more strings ensure evenly mixed matcha and frothy foam. Kazuho / 68-74 string chasenHachijuppondate / 75-80 string chasenHyappondate / 81-95 string chasenHyakunijuppondate / 96-120 string chasen Chasen HyappondateKubo Sabun
HOW TO WHISK MATCHA
Becoming a master of Japanese tea ceremony takes years of dedication, however, that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate the matcha whisk into your daily routine.
It is best to place the whisk in hot water for a few seconds to loosen the strings and “soften” the bamboo each time before using a chasen.
Place the appropriate amount of tea powder (2 g for usucha or 3.75 g for koicha per person) and hot water in the chawan and begin to whisk. The trick is to slightly arch your wrist and (while only moving your wrist) whisk the ingredients as quickly as possible using an M- or W-shaped motion, taking special care not to scrape the strings across the bottom of the chawan.
After an even layer of foam has been achieved, slowly remove the whisk in a swirling motion to create a soft peak of foam on top.
Once finished, you can proceed to clean and store the chasen as instructed below.
Important Note: Before the first use, place the whisk into hot water for a few minutes. The water will cause the curled ends to straighten.
HOW TO CLEAN A MATCHA WHISK
While the matcha whisk’s delicate design suggests the need for careful maintenance, this is not the case. The strings can be easily cleaned in either of the following ways after preparing a cup of matcha.
Place the whisk under a gentle stream of hot water until clean.
Pour hot water in a chawan (matcha bowl) and whisk until clean, then pour the water out. Completely dry both the chasen and chawan before storing them.
Important Note: Be sure to never use soap or to run your bamboo whisk through the dishwasher as both of these cleaning methods can severely damage it.
HOW TO STORE A MATCHA WHISK
Correctly storing a chasen is one of the most important steps that can be taken to ensure long-term use. The following points are worth considering.
Never store a matcha whisk with the strings facing down and directly touching the surface it is being placed upon.
Use a kusenaoshi (chasen holder), which will help retain the shape.
If a kusenaoshi is not available, store the whisk with the strings facing up. Note that the strings will gradually lose shape over time.
If properly taken care of, a matcha whisk can last one or two years depending on the quality, craftsmanship, and frequency of use. Once the strings begin to break or lose their shape, it’s time to purchase a new one.
WHERE TO BUY HIGH-QUALITY MATCHA WHISKS FROM JAPAN
If you have never whisked with a chasen, doing so will give you the opportunity to rediscover the beauty of matcha and deepen your understanding of the Japanese tea ceremony. Sazen Tea offers a variety of high-quality matcha whisks sourced from well-established Japanese craftsman specializing in the art of making chasen.
For beginner matcha enthusiasts, Sazen Tea makes discovering the world of Japanese tea easy with elegant 5-piece matcha sets that include all the essential tools necessary, including a chasen, for making matcha in Japan’s traditional style.
For more information please see the list of Best matcha whisk