A Chasen - also known as a matcha whisk- is a specialized tool used in the Japanese tea ceremony and the single most essential piece of equipment that will ensure you prepare a frothy bowl of matcha.
It is made from a single piece of bamboo that is carefully hand-split into thin strands. These strands are then intricately secured in place with a special thread at the intersection between the solid base of the trunk and there the strands start splitting up. The number of strands can vary, but the most common Chasen has around 80 to 100 strands even though they do sometimes go up to 140.
Origins of the Chasen
The process of making a Chasen requires great skill and precision and today only 10 families make recognized Japanese Chasens, all of which are based in the Takayama town in the Nara, Japan.
Originally, the Chasen was intended for a single use in the matcha ceremony, very much like a set of disposable chopsticks. This further reinforces how the matcha ceremony was an aristocratic, and ceremonious event for the elite.
The birthplace of the Chasen is a small town called Yuwa Takayama, and this is where our Chasens are made. Yuwa Takayama has produced over 90% of Chasen in Japan for over 500 years and the art has been passed down through generations.
Our Chasens and Chashaku are Made in Takayama (Nara prefecture) by the Kubo Masaki, the 24th generation of a chasen-making family, and recognized as National Living Treasure for his skills. After cutting, the bamboo has been left to dry for a long period to prevent it from molding.
How is our Chasen Made?
First, a Japanese-grown bamboo stalk is selected and and aged for 3 years. It is then cut into the desired length. The outer layer of the bamboo is then stripped away, leaving only the inner core. This core is then split into thin strands using a special knife. The split strands are then heated to make them more pliable and easier to shape.
Next, the strands are carefully woven together using a technique called "twining." This involves crossing the strands over each other in a specific pattern to create the shape of the whisk. The ends of the strands are then trimmed to create an even and uniform appearance. Finally, the Chasen is dried and polished to give it a smooth finish.
Our Chasen are sealed with a stamp guaranteeing that it is hand-made by a certified traditional craftsman.
You can view the entire process in the video below:
How to Use a Chasen
Using a chasen to whisk matcha tea requires a specific technique. Here are the steps to follow:
- Start by preheating your chawan (matcha bowl) by pouring hot water into it and letting it sit for a minute. Then, discard the water.
- Add the desired amount of matcha powder to the chawan. The amount will depend on your personal preference and the strength of the matcha.
- Slowly pour hot water (not boiling) into the chawan, covering the matcha powder.
- Hold the chasen in one hand and use your other hand to stabilize the chawan.
- Using a back-and-forth motion, whisk the matcha and water together. Start slowly and gradually increase the speed to create a frothy consistency.
- Continue whisking until the matcha is fully dissolved and a layer of foam forms on the surface.
- Once whisked, gently tap the chasen on the side of the chawan to remove any excess matcha from the whisk.
- Your matcha tea is now ready to be enjoyed. Serve it in a traditional Japanese tea cup and savor the unique flavor and aroma.
Remember to clean your chasen after each use. You can do this by simply whisking the chasen in a bowl of clean, hot water immediately after use.
Before using a chasen for the first time, let it set in hot water for 10 minutes in your matcha bowl, head down. Only dip half of the hosaki, the strings of the chasen, in the water.
Afterward, wet the chasen a little before every use to soften the bristles for making more foam and prevent damaging them.
Store it in a well-ventilated area to prevent mold or mildew from forming, ideally by resting it upside down on a Chasen Tate. This will preserve the shape of the Chasen and dry it adequately.