When it comes to making a top-notch bowl of matcha, there’s one step I never skip: whisking. And with a chasen (traditional bamboo matcha whisk.), at that.
Yep, I’m a whisker, whether I’m drinking my matcha straight or whipping up a latte. I’ll go into a few of the reasons why later on in this post, but in short, using a whisk not only enhances the matcha-making experience but also makes a cup that’s out of this world.
I get it. Sometimes convenience trumps taste and it can be tempting to use the "easy method" to make matcha. But if you really want to enjoy the matcha you likely splurged on, you’ve gotta whisk it. (Whisk it good!) Which is why I always encourage my customers to at least try using a chasen when they’re starting out with matcha. More often than not, those that give it a go never go basic to basic tools (think: milk frothers and spoons).
So, why use a whisk?
While there are countless utensils used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony to make matcha, perhaps none are as essential as the chasen.
Made from flexible bamboo and designed exclusively for making matcha, the whisk is used to mix the matcha powder, water and air into a beautiful frothy drink. It essentially “aerates” the drink, releasing aromas and essences in the foam on the surface.
Using a chawan also adds to the aesthetic component of matcha preparation. These tools are expertly crafted and as a result makes their owner feel like a true matcha master (even though the whisking process is quite straightforward).
How do I whisk matcha?
From my personal experience, most people do not utilize a chasen when making matcha simply because they are not sure how to use it.
Whisking matcha with a chasen isn’t complicated. It isn’t time consuming. That said, it must be done in a certain way to make it work.
Here’s a rather detailed, step-by-step guide to get your whisk on.
- After warming your matcha bowl, whisk (see below) and sifting your matcha into the bowl, add a small amount of cold water (about a teaspoon) and work it slowly with the whisk into a paste free of lumps. (You’re not yet whisking, just mixing.)
- Add some hot water (follow the directions on your matcha label), and start whisking firmly using your wrist (not your arm or elbow – this is key!) while you hold the bowl with your other hand. Rather than whisking in a circle, whisk in a M-shaped or zig zag pattern. Don’t be shy. Whisk that matcha – firm and as fast as you possibly can to properly aerate the matcha and get a nice frothy foam.
- Continue whisking firmly for 20 to 30 seconds, keeping the chasen closer to the surface of the matcha/water mixture. Remember that practice makes perfect and you’ll get better the more you whisk. (Pro tip: Be sure that you do not press the prongs of the chasen to the bottom of the matcha bowl. A little friction is okay bug avoid pressing the whisk too hard.)
- After about 20 to 30 seconds of whisking, bubbles will start to form atop your froth (so long as you’re using a nice-quality matcha). You’ll want to whisk enough to make them as small as possible and uniform in size. If you prefer more foam, keep whisking!
To recap, here’s a quick Cliff Notes version of the directions:
- Warm matcha bowl and whisk.
- Prepare a lump-free matcha paste with a bit of cold water.
- Pour hot water.
- Whisk firmly and quickly for at least 20 seconds.
- Whisk back and forth in an M-shaped pattern, not a circle.
- Continue to whisk til satisfied.
How do I care for my matcha whisk?
Because the chasen is such an essential tool for making matcha, it’s important keep it in good shape so it lasts. Here are a few tips to do so.
Make it more flexible. Before using the chasen for the first time, dip it in warm water for 10 to 20 seconds. You can also do each time you make matcha when you are warming your bowl. This will make the prongs more flexible and also prevent them from breaking easily and ensure that your chasen lasts longer.
Use it with care. Again, be sure not to push too hard on your chasen when whisking. Do be firm, but also gentle, and avoid scratching your chawan matcha bowl.
Clean after each use. Simply use a bowl of warm water and whisk it as you would with matcha to clean your chasen. Don’t use soap or put it in the dishwasher; hot water will suffice.
Keep it dry. After cleaning your whisk, allow it to air dry completely to prevent mold, ideally on a matcha whisk holder. If you do not have a whisk holder, allow the chasen to dry standing upright, with its prongs facing upward. Store it in a dry area. Because the matcha whisk’s shape will change with each use, do not store the chasen in the container it came in when you bought it.
And that’s all, folks. Happy whisking!