The Chosen Chasen — Why bamboo whisks make the best maccha

With maccha still maintaining its popularity, people are discovering more and more ways of enjoying the powdered pleasure of this traditional Japanese green tea. Whipping up a quick smoothie is a tasty and convenient way to reap the benefits of all the antioxidants, amino acids, and chlorophyll found in maccha.

On the other hand, sometimes it can be a pleasant and serene experience to dabble in the art of making a traditional maccha.  Though there are many tools involved in a proper ceremony, casual maccha drinkers need only worry about one essential implement: the whisk. The maccha whisk, otherwise referred to as a chasen, is a crucial element in creating a well blended tea.

A chasen is carved from a single piece of bamboo into numerous ‘tines’, which can range from 60-240; most will commonly have 80-100 tines. Bamboo is the material of choice due its flexibility and durability. When whisking vigorously, it will bend to the shape of the maccha bowl to protect the bowl’s finish, yet retain its own shape when done whisking. Bamboo is also ideal because it does not give off nor absorb odours and tastes so it won’t compromise the flavour of the maccha.

However, some people will take the shortcut of using a handheld milk frother to try and create the desired creamy consistency of a well whisked maccha. While this is a quick way of mixing maccha with minimal effort, the results are not as refined as when a chasen is applied. Many experiments have been carried out by maccha enthusiasts to identify the difference between using a chasen and a milk frother. The majority found a poorer flavour profile in maccha made with a milk frother. Because maccha powder is not necessarily dissolved in water, but rather suspended, a whisk is more effective in distributing the particles evenly. In contrast, a milk frother is mainly good for just that, creating froth and bubbles. A frother will whiz through the tea only mixing so many particles at a time whereas a whisk will evenly cover more surface area with a smoother consistency.

The intensity of a milk frother also means that a taller vessel is required to prevent messes occurring, as opposed to the standard bowl/cup normally used to make maccha. This may result in the ratios of maccha to water becoming skewed thus affecting the end result in terms of appearance, texture, and flavour.

Regardless of how maccha is prepared, drinking it will always offer an exceptional health boost. Experimenting is a great way to discover the best way to enjoy it whether through a particular method of mixing it or by adding it to smoothies and other recipes. The only exceptions are ceremonial grade macchas, which should generally be consumed as they are and not mixed with anything else. This is when a chasen should definitely be used. So enlighten yourself with experimentation and let the enjoyment of maccha whisk you away.

Helpful hints for using a chasen to create beautifully whisked maccha:

  • Don’t use circular movements, but instead apply a back and forth zigzig motion
  • It’s all in the wrist; no need to exert much arm power.
  • Some people will sift their maccha powder before adding water for a silkier consistency
  • 2 grams of maccha powder to about 60-70ml of water is a fairly standard ratio. Experiment with these amounts to cater to personal tastes, however, be mindful that this will also change the texture and consistency. Water should not be quite boiling, but at about 80°C.