Have you ever had a wonderful cup of matcha? We’re talking about a delightfully frothy, light, and smooth bowl of bright green goodness. If you have, it’s all because of the matcha whisk.
Using a matcha whisk the wrong way can result in lifeless and clumpy matcha, and it can even damage your whisk long-term. Join us as we dive into the world of matcha and learn how to deliver a lovely cup of matcha, every time.
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What Is Authentic Matcha?
The first step to using a matcha whisk authentically is to understand what makes matcha authentic. Let’s take a look at where matcha comes from and why we need a whisk in the first place.
Chinese zen (chan) monks discovered the joys of pulverized green tea leaves in the late eighth century. These Buddhist monks used the powdered green tea as a way to keep themselves alert and focused during their meditations.
Thanks to science, we now know that this boost in focus occurs because matcha contains almost as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. Matcha also contains L-theanine, an amino acid known for promoting feelings of relaxation and greater focus.
That’s part of why the caffeine in tea is absorbed differently by our bodies than the caffeine in coffee, providing a gradual and sustainable energy boost without the jitters.
The practice of drinking matcha trickled down the social ladder, and soon matcha preparation was a way for the Japanese elite to gather and forge political connections. Eventually, matcha even became popular among the middle classes.
The Japanese tea ceremony features matcha at its center. This spiritual ceremony combines tea preparation, scroll paintings, horticulture, and flower arranging in a single meditative practice. Although this tradition began centuries ago, it is still a strong part of Japanese culture today.
Matcha is made from ground-up leaves harvested from the Camellia sinensis plant. These leaves are also used to make white tea, black tea, green tea, oolong tea, and Pu-erh tea.
Matcha traditionally includes only the youngest and finest tea leaves, which are typically hand-picked and examined for quality. These leaves are picked during the first harvest when their caffeine and nutrient levels are the highest.
Tea plants intended for matcha are shade-grown for much of their development. This is because growing in the shade actually increases nutrient levels and sweetens the flavor. The shade also increases the plant’s chlorophyll, which accounts for the rich green color of high-quality matcha.
Because ground matcha powder typically includes the leaf stems as well as the leaves, matcha has some of the greatest health benefits of any tea. This delicious tea is a wonderful way to show your body some love!
Finally, there are three different grades of matcha. In order of lowest to highest quality, these grades are:
Culinary matcha is typically less vibrant because it is made with older tea leaves or leaves harvested later in the year. While it still tastes amazing in baked goods and dinner recipes, culinary matcha can be quite bitter when prepared traditionally.
Premium quality matcha is a middle-ground that is most suitable for matcha-based drinks. Although it’s not quite as bitter as culinary matcha, this type of matcha is still not the ideal choice for a cuppa without added sweeteners or flavors.
If you want traditionally prepared matcha, we recommend sticking with ceremonial matcha. This type of matcha uses only the absolute finest tea leaves, and it’s the only way to ensure you experience matcha’s signature sweetness. This type of matcha is a vibrant green, while culinary matcha is typically a greenish-brown.
What Is a Traditional Matcha Whisk?
In order to prepare matcha authentically, you’ll need a traditional matcha whisk. This whisk is called the chasen, and it’s one of many materials needed for traditional matcha preparation.
A traditional chasen is made from a single piece of bamboo, which is cut and seasoned – sometimes for up to two years! The bamboo is then carefully split, shaved, and carved until it becomes a whisk.
A traditional whisk can have any number of bamboo teeth, although this number typically ranges between 16 and 120. You can use a whisk with any number of tines, but keep this in mind: the more teeth, the easier it will be to whip up a wonderfully frothy cup of matcha.
However many teeth your chasen has, you’ll notice that there is a tightly woven core of bamboo strands in the center. Over time, this core will loosen up in a process called “blooming” and can actually greatly enhance your matcha making experience!
Do you need a chasen to make matcha? Technically, no. You can make matcha with a milk frother or a fork.
However, the chasen is a crucial element of authentic matcha preparation. It’s the only tool that is specifically designed to fully dissolve matcha powder and create all of the air bubbles needed for a lovely froth.
How to Use a Matcha Whisk
So, how can you use a matcha whisk authentically and efficiently? Here is one tried and true whisking routine to try out.
Measure Your Matcha
The first thing you’ll want to do is sift your matcha to help it dissolve better. Once sifted, measure two scoops with your chasaku, a traditional wooden matcha scoop. If you don't have a chasaku, we recommend using around one teaspoon of matcha powder.
Place the matcha in your chawan, or matcha bowl. This bowl is another important element of traditional matcha preparation. Our matcha bowls are made to embody the wabi-sabi style and will make your experience that much more authentic.
Soak Your Whisk
Before you make your matcha, we recommend soaking your whisk in hot water for 20 to 30 seconds. This will help the tines in your whisk become more pliable and produce a better froth.
Pour Hot Water
Once your water boils, let it sit for a minute, and then pour the water over your matcha. The ideal water temperature for matcha is 170℉.
You can use water at other temperatures, but this temperature is an effective way to bring out the sweetness and silkiness of traditional matcha.
Whisk Back and Forth
Matcha does not automatically dissolve in water, so you need to thoroughly whisk it to combine the powder with the water.
We know it may be tempting to whisk in a circular pattern, but this will actually do more harm than good. Whisking matcha in this way might leave some powder undissolved and won’t produce the kind of froth and air bubbles needed for a delicious cuppa.
Instead, whisk in a back and forth motion or in a zigzag pattern. This will give you a deliciously silky-smooth matcha.
Dry Your Whisk
Finally, you’ll need to dry your whisk once you’re done. There are special chasen holders that allow the whisk to dry while helping it hold its shape, but you can dry your chasen without these holders as well.
You can also prop your chasen against an object to help it dry. If you choose to do this, remember to prop the whisk at the handle, not against the tines. Putting this kind of pressure against the tines can cause the whisk to bend out of shape, which will affect the quality of future cups of matcha.
The matcha whisk is an important element of traditional matcha preparation. While you can make matcha without it, the bamboo whisk is an effective way to make an authentic cuppa. Even if you’re making other matcha recipes, this important tool makes a world of difference.
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