Matcha tea is as much defined by the utensils used as it is by the tea powder itself and the person preparing the tea. We are lucky to enjoy the support of Inada Yusetsu, one of only 19 living officially recognized master craftsmen of chasen, or the bamboo tea whisk used to make matcha tea.
About the Craftsman
Inada Yusetsu learned his craft from his grandfather (below left) and father (below right). He has been making chasen for over 30 years in the birthplace of the tool, Takayama, Osaka.
Government recognized master craftsman
Inada-san holds the title of Master Craftsman, bestowed by the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry. Tea whisks made by Master Craftsman are allowed to utilize the logo seen in the image on the right. Find out more about the certification program and Takayama tea whisks specifically on the website of The Association for the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries.
About Production of Premium Takayama Chasens
Hachiku Bamboo: Chasens, or bamboo tea whisks, from Takayama are made from a bamboo variety called "hachiku" which grows in the Kansai and Shikoku regions of Japan. The bamboo stalks are harvested in the winter when they contain the least amount of water, and harvested by a specialist 3 years after they have sprouted. The thickness of the bamboo stalk determines the number of needles that the whisk contains.
Aburanuki is often used in Japanese cooking--a process of removing or draining the surface oil of something that has been deep fried by placing it briefly in boiling water. After the hachiku bamboo stalks have been harvested they go thru the aburanuki process--boiled to remove oil from the stalks, and are then sun-dried for 2-3 years before they are ready to be used for making chasen.
Ajikezuri: A master craftsman's traditional process of making a chasen is both simple and extremely complex. Using a small knife, he carves each needle on the whisk to the point where the tip is as fine as 0.1 mm and shapes the chasen to a rounded edge. Ajikezuri is the most difficult part of making a chasen. It is said that the skill of the carving can change the aji or taste of the matcha tea. Inada-san's 30 years of experience means he works fast, producing an average of 7-8 tea whisks a day!
This is, of course, an oversimplified explanation of the traditional craft of Japanese chasen tea whisks. If you are a lover of matcha, we hope you choose only the best where love of the craft translates into love of tea.