When you put careful thought and intention into your maccha, your tools are an integral part of the process. Here’s how you can evaluate and use the proper tools to prepare maccha.
Choosing Your Chasen
What is a Chasen?
Chasen are bamboo whisks used for blending maccha green tea. The delicate shape, coupled with the handwoven, fine bamboo, prepare maccha quickly and with minimal residue. Good technique works to bring forth better and better flavour and texture from the maccha.
Where Are Chasen made?
Chasen made by Mr. Kubo in Takayama Japan are free of sweatshop labour concerns, and are not sprayed with anti-molding agents, pesticides, or herbicides. Make sure it says “Made in Japan” somewhere, otherwise it likely isn’t.
Takayama is where the technique for cutting chasen was invented. It was kept secret for hundreds of years, similar to stone masonry, and finally taught to 16 disciples by the Takayama family before being spread around the world. Takayama is still renowned for the very strongest bamboo and most experienced artisans.
Identifying Good Craftsmanship
There are many points of good craftsmanship. However, there are some simple details you can confirm quickly just by looking.
The chasen should have a tight, straight weave. This flays the fronds out for optimal maccha prep. As does the weave being tied low down the cuts.
The middle should be perfectly centered, and the outer fronds should form as perfect a circle as possible, especially apparent after the first couple uses.
Protected Chasen Artisans
To better guarantee the craftsmanship of your chasen, there is a group of protected artisans in Japan. The Japanese government protects the very best in its work to keep this beautiful art form in Japan, and to provide a guarantee of excellence in this craft. There are 15 artisans protected in Takayama. Mr. Kubo (pictured above) is one of them (all our chasen are brought in through him). This decal signifies that your chasen is made by a protected artisan and is recognized by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
Caring for Your Chasen
- Whisk lightly in a bowl of hot water to prevent shock from first whisk of the day.
- When Whisking
- Touch bowl lightly
- Do not “dig”
- Rinse under hot water
- Shake out vigorously
- Use both hands when placing on chasennaoshi (stand) to prevent broken middle)
Choosing Your Maccha Jawan
What is a Chawan?
Chawan are bowls that have been specifically shaped to create maccha inside. Their high sides allow for vigorous whisking, and their shape complements the chasen (bamboo whisk) used in the process for minimal breakage.
Where is Chawan Made?
Chawan made in Japan and Canada are relatively free of sweatshop labour concerns; also, they don’t have any lead or other questionable content in the glaze or clay. Make sure you check and make sure of the country your chawan was made in. Canada and Japan have strict labour and toxic content regulations that can assuage your concerns in this regard.
Chawan Guild Members
Like any craft, quality in craftsmanship can be in the eye of the beholder. We choose to work only with guild members because we, ourselves, are not experienced potters. We are on a quest for knowledge and recognize that the quality controls of artisan guilds make for a superior vessel made by people who have to prove they know what they are doing.
Does it Have a Chadamari?
A chadamari, unfortunately translated as a “tea puddle”, is a little divot in the bottom of the maccha jawan (when chawan follows maccha, it is written as jawan). This collects the last sip in an aesthetically pleasing way. It is also a good sign of a bowl intended for maccha.
- How to Hold a Chasen
- Hold Chasen (whisk) perpendicular to Chawan (bowl)
- Place fingertips between ridge and black weave.
- Break Up Powder (3 seconds)
- Gather in the powder with a couple broad circles. Your Chasen should lightly touch the bottom of your Chawan.
- Slide moderately quickly from side to side
- Introduce Air & Create Froth (5 seconds)
- Whisk vigorously until you see a thick and bubbly froth form. Your Chasen should be lightly hitting the sides of the Chawan while whisking back and forth extremely fast.
- Gradually switch to step 4 without choppy movements
- Develop Froth (7 seconds) (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1uwHo5BDR0tFvc0zO4iTI4l28DAuOU1Su/view?usp=sharing)
- Switch whisking style back to “sliding”.
- Slow to ⅔ speed of Step 3
- Make elongated loops (ovals, not circles!). Try not to introduce more air.
- The liquid should vortex if whisking right.
- Gradually slow down over the course of 10 “mississippis” to a “lazy” speed.
- Stop in Middle
- Draw an outward to inward spiral, pause in the middle, and pull out the Chasen. This makes a dome out of the froth.
- How It Should Look
- No visible bubbles
- Checking with spoon shows thick froth
- Nice shine on top
- Transfer (Optional)
- Swirl liquid and froth centres
- Touch edge to edge and pour
- * May spill, transfer over sink or use JagaSilk yuzamashi.