The tea whisk or chasen (茶筅) is an important component when making matcha. It is used to froth the matcha when the tea powder is mixed with water. The action used when whisking is a M or W pattern of very quick to-and-fro motions, without scraping the whisk against the bottom of the bowl. It is recommended to heat the whisk a little in hot water before use.
We sell whisks by Suikaen Yasaburo Tanimura, a 26th generation company that makes Takayama chasen, named after the town of Takayama in Nara Prefecture, which is renowned for the manufacturing of premium hand crafted whisks since the middle of the Muromachi period (1336-1573). This style of whisk is called "regular ear" and is ideal for thick tea (koicha).
The whisk is made in the following way:
- Bamboo is dried and prepared for two years before cutting.
- The bamboo is split into 12-24 segments and cleaned out,
- The "tines" are further split into finer inside and outside ones.
- The tips are shaved after soaking in order to curl.
- Both edges of the outside tines are shaved lightly to enhance whisking.
- The chamfered outside tines are bound with black thread to keep the whisk together.
- The intervals between tines are adjusted for even spacing.
- Any final adjustments are made to ensure uniformity.
Each whisk is packaged in a cardboard box. It is important to clean the whisk in warm water without soap (by using the same whisking motion) and to either store it upright, or on a traditional ceramic stand, called a kusenaoshi.