Japanese tea is one aspect of the nation's culture that is deeply cherished by all. Over several centuries, ‘Cha’ as it is known in Japan, has transcended beyond an ordinary beverage with medical benefits into a ceremonial item for fostering lasting bonds and achieving inner peace.
Matcha tea, in particular, is one type of tea that has a long history dating as far back as the 11th century. This lovely brew, made from finely ground green tea leaves, gives off a unique savory taste and a characteristic bright green appearance.
Three vital Matcha utensils have been used to prepare and serve this delicious tea during the Japanese tea ceremony (Chado) since its inception: the Chashaku, the Chasen, and the Chawan.
Tea Spoon (Chashaku)
Referred to as ‘Chashaku’ in Japan, the teaspoon is a vital part of the Matcha tea preparation process. The Chashaku is narrow and has a distinctive curved shape that helps with the precise measurement of the finely ground tea leaves. Originally, these tea spoons were made from Ivory. However, as the years passed and culture evolved, they eventually were replaced by bamboo. Presently, the woody aromatic scent of bamboo is believed to add an extra tint of flavor to Matcha.
Bamboo Whisk (Chasen)
For a long time, the Chasen has cemented itself as an integral instrument required for the respected Japanese tea ceremony. Handcrafted using a single bamboo, the Chasen is essential for mixing the green tea powder until it achieves a uniform consistency and releases the perfect amount of foam. Although there are several commercially available Bamboo whisks, the finest of Matcha makers understand the role of the Chasen and how important it is to select one with the correct teeth thickness, number of tines, shape, and bamboo quality.
Matcha Bowls (Chawan)
Since its introduction from China, Matcha bowls have become a constant feature in several tea ceremonies in Japan. The making of the Chawan reflects the deep reverence and awe attached to the Chado tradition. Each step, from the hand forming of the clay, to the amount of heating, is carefully done to ensure that this utensil maintains a softer density and structure than regular porcelain wares.
The Design of the Chawan
Matcha bowls are designed to be deeper than regular bowls, allowing for easy tea mixing. They are also deliberately smaller to enable easy drinking and without handles, as they are meant to be carried with both hands. The specific Matcha bowl used could depend on the time of the year and the type of tea being prepared. Typically, these bowls come in different shapes, styles, and sizes. Some examples include:
- Wan-Nari (Wooden bowl shape)
- Han Tsutsu-Gata (Half cylinder shape)
- Tsutsu-Gata (Cylinder shape)
- Dojimari-Gata (Waist type)
- Hiragata (Flat shape)
- Hatazori-Gata (Curving lip type)
- Sugi-Nari (Cedar shape)
The Japanese tea ceremony is an art initially preserved for only the most notable citizens of this ancient civilization. However, like with any other ritual or practice, specific items or processes are essential. Many consider making Matcha a sacred undertaking, and having the proper utensils is a non-negotiable step in preserving the rudiments of this age-long practice.