Beginner’s guide to matcha – Tools (Part 2 of 5)
guide, japan, matcha
This is part 2 of the beginner’s guide to matcha. Access the other parts here:
At its heart, matcha is a simple drink. Besides hot water, you need only:
- A bowl
- A whisk
Bowl - Chawan 茶碗
The bowl is preferably one with high sides to keep the matcha from splashing out when whisking. Any kind of clean bowl is fine – I used cereal bowls for a long time before buying a specific-use matcha bowl, called a chawan 茶碗.
Buying a chawan can be an investment. Some are works of art created by master potters, with price tags to match. Many are mass-produced nowadays but are still rather expensive (see: chawan sold on Amazon).
Finding a chawan that you enjoy – not just the way it looks, but the way it feels, the way it smells – can enhance the enjoyment of matcha but is certainly not necessary. I recommend using whatever suitable bowls you have on hand until you are sure that you want to continue to invest in your matcha journey.
Whisk - Chasen 茶筅
Matcha whisks are called chasen 茶筅 and are made of bamboo. While you can use a milk frother or other implement to whisk matcha, basic bamboo whisks are inexpensive and pleasing to use once you get the hang of it.
Chasen come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and number of prongs. Most will be made in China unless explicitly made in Japan, in which case it will be more expensive. Expect to pay around $10 USD for a made-in-China chasen, and at least $20 USD for one made in Japan.
My first chasen has taken a lot of abuse but still works great despite its ragged appearance.
The number of prongs impacts usage slightly. 80-100 prong chasen work great for whisking usucha, the thin tea most thought of as “matcha.” Lower prong counts are used for making koicha, a thick, paste-like tea. As a beginner, there’s no need to buy two chasen – if you decide to try your hand at making koicha, a standard 80-100 prong count chasen will suffice.
Before making tea – soften up the prongs of your chasen in hot water.
Optional: Whisk stand - Chasen-naoshi 茶筅直し
One optional item I recommend picking up is the chasen-naoshi 茶筅直し, also called kuse-naoshi くせ直し or chasen-tate 茶筅立て – a whisk stand. This stand not only holds your chasen, it also re-shapes the curve of the prongs after use. Without a chasen-naoshi, the prongs of the matcha whisk will begin to straighten out after repeated exposure to hot water. Chasen-naoshi can be found for around $5 USD (although I’ve seen them sold for as much as $35 USD…yikes.)
To use a chasen-naoshi, simply place your whisk over it, being careful that the inner prongs go inside the hole and the outer prongs rest on the outside surface.
What about the matcha?
I’ve devoted a whole page to picking the right matcha since this is the most important step to starting your journey on the right foot. There’s a fair bit of terminology and marketing noise to cut through, so read on to part three when ready!