This bamboo whisk is central to the traditional preparation of matcha tea.
Steeped in centuries of tradition, the tea ceremony is an intrinsic part of Japanese culture. And, at the heart of the ceremony is the chasen (bamboo whisk). The chasen is used to whisk a bowl of matcha (finely ground powdered green tea) along with a small amount of hot water, giving the tea its creamy, frothy texture. Composed of a series of precise hand movements and graceful choreography, the tea ceremony is an ode to the exacting nature of traditional Japanese arts.
This attention to detail is also reflected in how the chasen is manufactured. Each chasen is made by hand, with the tines carefully cut from a single bamboo stalk before being carved into shape. It is not possible to manufacture the chasen with machines; the art of making these bamboo whisks is passed down from one generation of craftsmen to the next. This makes each chasen a unique and exclusive product.
How To Use
Although the traditional tea ceremony is performed in special Japanese teahouses, you can certainly enjoy a great bowl of matcha tea at home too. Just remember — good matcha powder tends to be a little clumpy, so it’s important to sift the tea beforehand. Also, the water you use should’ve come to a boil and then left to sit for a few minutes. When the water has come to a boil, pour a little into your tea bowl to warm it. Dip your chasen into the water so as to soften the tines, allowing them to unfurl. From there, whisk the chasen for a few seconds in the plain water before pouring the water out of the bowl and drying it.
To whisk, add about half a cup of hot water to your bowl of matcha. Start whisking slowly before picking up speed, whisking back and forth (not in a circular motion) until you notice bubbles starting to form. While still whisking quickly, slowly draw the chasen up towards the surface. When you reach the surface, slow the whisking a little. This helps break up the larger bubbles on the surface, giving you a perfectly sleek layer of foam.
As our kitchens get increasingly modernised, some people have questioned the necessity of using the chasen. Can’t we use an electric milk frother instead? While some people feel the end-results are similar, purists still prefer using the chasen. As Japanese food blogger Kohei puts it, “If you like matcha tea and want to continue consuming it, I recommend you to get a chasen. You will appreciate the gentle foam created with a fine art of bamboo.”
Caring For Your Chasen
In traditional tea ceremonies, the chasen is used only once before being discarded. Of course, in less formal settings, like at home, you can reuse the chasen after washing. Here’s how:
1. First, you’ll need a whisk keeper to store your chasen. It helps the bamboo tines maintain their shape, prolonging its lifespan.
2. Clean the chasen after each use. Keep it dry as extended contact with moisture can easily cause mould to develop.
3. Before each use, be sure to inspect your chasen for any broken tines and remove any broken bits before whisking. You wouldn’t want to accidentally swallow a piece of bamboo!