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Why and How to Whisk Matcha Green Tea: The Ultimate Guide on Whisking Matcha

Why and How to Whisk Matcha Green Tea: The Ultimate Guide on Whisking Matcha

I whisk my matcha.

Yes. Whether pure or when I prepare a latte, before pouring on the milk, I always, always whisk.
Using a Chasen (the Japanese name for a whisk used to prepare matcha green tea) is an absolute no-brainer for me and I have often trouble imagining that people could see things otherwise.

Truth is: as matcha aficionados and longtime Japanese expats, we tend to forget that for many people, whisking matcha is absolutely not an obvious practice.

I am often surprised to hear customers feedback who absolutely ADORE matcha, praise the taste our MMU’s blends…but obviously can’t whisk! Imagine if they only knew how to whisk? They would adore it even more 😉

Last year, before launching our infamous Kickstarter, we even went to shoot a movie of our tea-master mentor: we focused on capturing the movement of his hands, and tried to explain how easy it was really to whisk a good matcha:

Even after that, we realized the whole process was still largely misunderstood.

Therefore, and in the so very Japanese ways of everyday Kaizen (“improvement”), let’s talk today about something that will revolutionize your approach to matcha: WHISKING!

Why use a bamboo whisk (chasen)?

This, is a whisk.

The whisk is the single most important thing after the matcha itself when it comes to preparing a good beverage. It is called “chasen” (茶筅) in Japanese, it is made of bamboo and designed especially to prepare matcha.

This simple and modest tool is very important for several reasons.

The Mix

The whisk allows to mix matcha powder, water, and air into a nice frothy beverage, releasing aromas and essences in the foam on the surface. It is not only about dissolving the powder in water! Oxygenation is key.

For coffee drinkers: think of this effect as the froth on your espresso or cappuccino.
For wine drinkers: think of it as aeration – wine needs to “breathe” to reveal its full potential.

A word on the material: Bamboo

Bamboo (in a decent whisk) does not leave any taste or smell that would affect the delicate taste of matcha, when an iron whisk usually has an impact on it. Also it is a durable material: if dried in a good way, the chasen can keep its shape and remain efficient for a long time, months or years.

Bamboo makes the whisk highly flexible: instead of piercing/scratching the bowl, it bends and prevents any damage. As bowls used to prepare matcha can be old, precious and expensive, it is an important point. Especially if you make matcha often!

Last but not least : the Experience

The Experience when using a chasen is completely different. This tool has been used for centuries in tea ceremony. Making a Chasen requires time and knowledge. Using a bamboo whisk will make you feel like a tea master for a few minutes every day, and the great part is that you don’t need much knowledge to use it properly!

So in the end, how do you whisk?

How to whisk matcha

Whisking is the key part of making a good and foamy matcha! However from our own experience it is the most misunderstood step. Whisking is not complicated but you have to do it in a certain way to make it work. The whole process should not take more than a minute.

Here are some instructions to help you to obtain a nice foam:

Preparations:

After adding the matcha in your bowl (one or two spoons), add a small amount of cold water (a teaspoon) and work it slowly with the whisk into a lump free paste. That is not yet what we call whisking!

Now that you have a nice, lump free paste in your bowl, there begins the proper whisking:

The Whisking

Add some hot water, and start whisking firmly using your wrist (not the elbow) while you hold the bowl with your other hand. When we say firmly we mean FIRMLY. Don’t be afraid. Give it your best. Be fast! Be dirty! Be energetic! You’ll get the hang of it.

Try to whisk as fast as you possibly can! You can’t be too fast.

You must simply whisk the matcha back and forth, NOT in a circular motion but in a W or zigzag pattern. Or just back and forth. You need to shock the material as you incorporate air to the water and tea, otherwise it will not be foamy.
(Whisking in circles is too smooth and you will not be able to oxygenate your tea = no bubbles)

Keep whisking for at least 20 seconds. Your hand will feel tired and sore but DO NOT STOP.
Did I stress enough that you should whisk firmly? Whisk FIRMLY.

Here is a short video to help you visualize the whole process! You can slow down the video if you want to see the motion more clearly.

(note: as you see, the person whisking here poured the hot water directly on the matcha. We advise to still use a teaspoon of cold water first and work the matcha into a paste in order to get rid of any lumps)

Also, an advice: when whisking don’t press the tines hard at the bottom of the bowl: you don’t need to. It’s OK to have some friction but really don’t press unnecessarily hard. We are making tea here, not destroying utensils. Try and whisk the surface of the water.

When you’ve whisked hard for at least 20 seconds (you can do more!), slow down, stop and watch the foam. It should be there if the matcha you use if of good quality – if you use our MMU blends, we guarantee a great foam 😉

If you feel that you want more foam, whisk more. My personal advice here but I often re-whisk my matcha a second time after drinking half. I love to always have a nice deep foam on top!

Checklist:

  • Prepare your lump free paste with a bit of cold water.
  • Pour hot water.
  • Whisk HARD!
  • …For 20 seconds at least.
  • Whisk back & forth, NOT in a circle.
  • If you’re not happy with the foam whisk more!

There you go!

How to take care of your chasen

Your bamboo whisk is a precious tool. To keep it in a good shape through the uses, you have to take care of it and pay attention to a couple details!

Make it more flexible

Your chasen maintenance starts even before making your matcha. Before using it, you can dip it for several seconds in warm water to make the tines a little more flexible. It will prevent them from breaking easily and make you whisk last longer.

Be careful when using it

During the whisking, be sure not to push too much power on your chasen: be firm but gentle when you are using it. Also, as we said before, do not scratch your bowl with it. It will damage both of them!

Clean your chasen

Make sure to clean your whisk after each use. Don’t put in the dishwasher, it would damage it badly. Cleaning it is really simple: just use a bowl of warm water and whisk it as you would with matcha. You can repeat the operation as many times as needed. No need to use soap or anything, hot water will do the job perfectly by itself and it will be more gentle with the bamboo.

Dry it properly

Once cleaned, you need to dry your chasen to protect it from humidity and prevent the apparition of mold. The best thing to keep its shape is to use a whisk holder to make it dry and to store it. However, if you don’t use one, make sure not to dry or store your bamboo whisk on its side: it will lose its shape and efficiency really quickly. You can put it backwards so the tiles are sticking on the air.

Store it in a good place

To store your whisk, do not use the plastic container it came in when you bought it. Chasen shape always changes through the uses, it is perfectly normal. The first container might not fit it anymore after several uses. It might even damage your whisk if you apply too much power when you put it inside.
Also, if your chasen is not perfectly dry, the humidity trapped in the plastic could cause mold. This is also why we recommend you to use a whisk holder.

That’s it!

If you read this article from the start to the end, first of all: congratulations! You are now able to use a chasen properly and to make it last! You are a step closer to enjoying a great matcha 🙂

 Updated on June 5th, 2018

Joanne Bounin & Etienne Denoual

Why and How to Whisk Matcha Green Tea: The Ultimate Guide on Whisking Matcha

I whisk my matcha.

Yes. Whether pure or when I prepare a latte, before pouring on the milk, I always, always whisk.
Using a Chasen (the Japanese name for a whisk used to prepare matcha green tea) is an absolute no-brainer for me and I have often trouble imagining that people could see things otherwise.

Truth is: as matcha aficionados and longtime Japanese expats, we tend to forget that for many people, whisking matcha is absolutely not an obvious practice.

I am often surprised to hear customers feedback who absolutely ADORE matcha, praise the taste our MMU’s blends…but obviously can’t whisk! Imagine if they only knew how to whisk? They would adore it even more 😉

Last year, before launching our infamous Kickstarter, we even went to shoot a movie of our tea-master mentor: we focused on capturing the movement of his hands, and tried to explain how easy it was really to whisk a good matcha:

Even after that, we realized the whole process was still largely misunderstood.

Therefore, and in the so very Japanese ways of everyday Kaizen (“improvement”), let’s talk today about something that will revolutionize your approach to matcha: WHISKING!

Why use a bamboo whisk (chasen)?

This, is a whisk.

The whisk is the single most important thing after the matcha itself when it comes to preparing a good beverage. It is called “chasen” (茶筅) in Japanese, it is made of bamboo and designed especially to prepare matcha.

This simple and modest tool is very important for several reasons.

The Mix

The whisk allows to mix matcha powder, water, and air into a nice frothy beverage, releasing aromas and essences in the foam on the surface. It is not only about dissolving the powder in water! Oxygenation is key.

For coffee drinkers: think of this effect as the froth on your espresso or cappuccino.
For wine drinkers: think of it as aeration – wine needs to “breathe” to reveal its full potential.

A word on the material: Bamboo

Bamboo (in a decent whisk) does not leave any taste or smell that would affect the delicate taste of matcha, when an iron whisk usually has an impact on it. Also it is a durable material: if dried in a good way, the chasen can keep its shape and remain efficient for a long time, months or years.

Bamboo makes the whisk highly flexible: instead of piercing/scratching the bowl, it bends and prevents any damage. As bowls used to prepare matcha can be old, precious and expensive, it is an important point. Especially if you make matcha often!

Last but not least : the Experience

The Experience when using a chasen is completely different. This tool has been used for centuries in tea ceremony. Making a Chasen requires time and knowledge. Using a bamboo whisk will make you feel like a tea master for a few minutes every day, and the great part is that you don’t need much knowledge to use it properly!

So in the end, how do you whisk?

How to whisk matcha

Whisking is the key part of making a good and foamy matcha! However from our own experience it is the most misunderstood step. Whisking is not complicated but you have to do it in a certain way to make it work. The whole process should not take more than a minute.

Here are some instructions to help you to obtain a nice foam:

Preparations:

After adding the matcha in your bowl (one or two spoons), add a small amount of cold water (a teaspoon) and work it slowly with the whisk into a lump free paste. That is not yet what we call whisking!

Now that you have a nice, lump free paste in your bowl, there begins the proper whisking:

The Whisking

Add some hot water, and start whisking firmly using your wrist (not the elbow) while you hold the bowl with your other hand. When we say firmly we mean FIRMLY. Don’t be afraid. Give it your best. Be fast! Be dirty! Be energetic! You’ll get the hang of it.

Try to whisk as fast as you possibly can! You can’t be too fast.

You must simply whisk the matcha back and forth, NOT in a circular motion but in a W or zigzag pattern. Or just back and forth. You need to shock the material as you incorporate air to the water and tea, otherwise it will not be foamy.
(Whisking in circles is too smooth and you will not be able to oxygenate your tea = no bubbles)

Keep whisking for at least 20 seconds. Your hand will feel tired and sore but DO NOT STOP.
Did I stress enough that you should whisk firmly? Whisk FIRMLY.

Here is a short video to help you visualize the whole process! You can slow down the video if you want to see the motion more clearly.

(note: as you see, the person whisking here poured the hot water directly on the matcha. We advise to still use a teaspoon of cold water first and work the matcha into a paste in order to get rid of any lumps)

Also, an advice: when whisking don’t press the tines hard at the bottom of the bowl: you don’t need to. It’s OK to have some friction but really don’t press unnecessarily hard. We are making tea here, not destroying utensils. Try and whisk the surface of the water.

When you’ve whisked hard for at least 20 seconds (you can do more!), slow down, stop and watch the foam. It should be there if the matcha you use if of good quality – if you use our MMU blends, we guarantee a great foam 😉

If you feel that you want more foam, whisk more. My personal advice here but I often re-whisk my matcha a second time after drinking half. I love to always have a nice deep foam on top!

Checklist:

  • Prepare your lump free paste with a bit of cold water.
  • Pour hot water.
  • Whisk HARD!
  • …For 20 seconds at least.
  • Whisk back & forth, NOT in a circle.
  • If you’re not happy with the foam whisk more!

There you go!

How to take care of your chasen

Your bamboo whisk is a precious tool. To keep it in a good shape through the uses, you have to take care of it and pay attention to a couple details!

Make it more flexible

Your chasen maintenance starts even before making your matcha. Before using it, you can dip it for several seconds in warm water to make the tines a little more flexible. It will prevent them from breaking easily and make you whisk last longer.

Be careful when using it

During the whisking, be sure not to push too much power on your chasen: be firm but gentle when you are using it. Also, as we said before, do not scratch your bowl with it. It will damage both of them!

Clean your chasen

Make sure to clean your whisk after each use. Don’t put in the dishwasher, it would damage it badly. Cleaning it is really simple: just use a bowl of warm water and whisk it as you would with matcha. You can repeat the operation as many times as needed. No need to use soap or anything, hot water will do the job perfectly by itself and it will be more gentle with the bamboo.

Dry it properly

Once cleaned, you need to dry your chasen to protect it from humidity and prevent the apparition of mold. The best thing to keep its shape is to use a whisk holder to make it dry and to store it. However, if you don’t use one, make sure not to dry or store your bamboo whisk on its side: it will lose its shape and efficiency really quickly. You can put it backwards so the tiles are sticking on the air.

Store it in a good place

To store your whisk, do not use the plastic container it came in when you bought it. Chasen shape always changes through the uses, it is perfectly normal. The first container might not fit it anymore after several uses. It might even damage your whisk if you apply too much power when you put it inside.
Also, if your chasen is not perfectly dry, the humidity trapped in the plastic could cause mold. This is also why we recommend you to use a whisk holder.

That’s it!

If you read this article from the start to the end, first of all: congratulations! You are now able to use a chasen properly and to make it last! You are a step closer to enjoying a great matcha 🙂

 Updated on June 5th, 2018

Joanne Bounin & Etienne Denoual

By |2018-06-05T17:11:44+00:00June 4th, 2018|Blog MMU|Comments Off on Why and How to Whisk Matcha Green Tea: The Ultimate Guide on Whisking Matcha

Behind the Scenes – Factors of Growing High Quality Matcha

The information we get on matcha rarely goes further then its health benefits and the package size. As the interest in this unique tea has been growing, more and more attention is paid on location where matcha is coming from. What makes matcha unique is not only the powdered form. Using special cultivars and employing the right growing procedures all count into making the final product. One important aspect to take a look at when growing matcha (or better to say tencha, tea leaves that are later grounded into matcha) is the soil and weather conditions, along with the usage of fertilizers, especially because matcha is a shade-grown tea that is not permitted to gain much direct sunshine. Three to four weeks prior to harvesting from 80-95% of light is permitted. These factors will influence the matcha flavor and quality in a great extent.

It all starts with the soil

Matcha has been grown in different areas of Japan – from Fukuoka, Shizuoka, Saga, Kagoshima, Miyazaki, to the most famous one – Kyoto. The reason that Uji matcha from Kyoto is the most famous one lies not only in the tradition of growing, but also in the most favorable soil and weather conditions. Japanesese tea gardens are grown on few different types of soil – andasol (volcanic soil), red-yellow soil (derived from mica-bearing rocks), lithosol (weather-beaten rock particles) and brown-forest soil (formed under forest leaves). Different types of soils are found in different parts of Japan, and in connection to the weather conditions, used for growing different types of teas.

Therefore, specific areas take a great role in the final result of growing tea. Volcanic soils are extremely nutrient rich, more airy and hold water better, they help plants to accumulate more nitrogen. They are mostly found in Miyazaki, Kagoshima, Shizuoka, Mie, Saitama and Kanagawa. Most of these areas are famous for sencha production, and only some produce matcha, but in lower quantities and usually only sometimes comparable in quality to Uji tea.

Brown-forest soil under forest leaves is found in Kochi and Kumamoto prefectures of Japan and ranges from almost neutral (Kumamoto) to acidic (Kochi). Kumamoto is famous for pan-fired Japanese tea Kamairicha and Kochi offers wide selection of bancha (including fermented bancha) and hojicha. Lithosol is generally considered less fertile than other soils, and can be found in Gifu, prefecture with cooler climate and quite low tea production.

Uji soil differs from most of the these areas. Red-yellow soil found in Kyoto prefecture is more acidic than the rest of the soils where matcha is not being produced, and consists of a different biomass which affects its fertility. Most matcha growing areas have the same acidity regardless of the soil used.

Giving a good shelter

Since Japan is a long and thin island, proximity of the sea plays an important role in the tea production. Tea is a subtropical plant, as such, it survives the best in subtropical climate. Uji subtropical climate has been ideal for producing tea for centuries. The proximity of rivers and sea, enough rain and sun throughout the year, humid summer and mild winters, lowlands and hills that provide protection from unfavorable weather conditions, all proved to be perfect for growing tea far back since the 12th century.

Uji has enough precipitation from March till October and no frost in winter with around 150mm of rain in March, April and August and a little more than 200mm in June, July and September. Winter is dry and mild, frost free with temperatures rarely going below zero. These are all great conditions for camellia sinsesis to succeed.

Japan is currently using few dozens of tea cultivars to produce teas. Some of them can survive harsh weather conditions more easily, some are more prone to diseases and each and every one of them will result in different tea. Cultivars that take in more nutrients, have smaller tender leaves and give deeper and sweeter flavor and color are usually used for making matcha. In Uji, around ten different ones are used: Uji Midori, Uji Hikari, Kyo Midori, Samidori, Saemidori, Oku Midori, Kamakage, Ogura Midori, Gokou, Asahi and Yabukita. Few others such as Asatsuyu and Yamanoibuki are used in other parts of Japan.

Feeding the plants

Matcha tea always comes from tea gardens. There is no such thing as wild matcha. The reason for this is that it requires special methods of fertilizing and growing (including shading). With the growing desire to buy only organic products, many are forgetting that organic is not always traditional. Especially when tea is concerned (and knowing that it has been consumed for hundreds of years), traditional methods of fertilization give the best results. As we already mentioned, tea leaves used for matcha are being shaded to prevent direct sunlight affecting the leaves. With reducing sunshine, leaves accumulate more chlorophyll, theanine and amino acids, but less catechins, making them more sweet and less bitter. Soil needs to be fertilized in order to achieve the best flavor, both at the beginning of the year in January and February, and when the leaves are shaded in April and May. Using only organic fertilizers acts very slowly, while fertilizers like pure nitrogen will give faster results. Nitrogen is used to produce new shoots in older plants and to increase the amount of amino acids. Overuse of fertilizers often results in tea with very poor amino acid profile, but high in theanine. Compost is often used as an organic fertilizer instead of nitrogen. Still a very little percentage of tea grown in Japan is organic. Some tea varietals are very prone to diseases and, starting in March, attracted by different worms and bugs. Cooler weather conditions are especially important for growing organic teas. Areas that are less attracted by bugs, and using stronger tea cultivars can reduce the usage of pesticides.

Even though most of Uji matcha tea will not be organic, it will still meet very strict requirements regarding the amount of chemical residue. Non-organic tea from Japan is extremely safe to consume, and will, in most cases, offer much better flavor profile than organic tea, especially when matcha is concerned. What counts in the end is the umami, savory taste, good balance of sweetness and bitterness and a vivid color.

Because of the best soil, perfect weather conditions and biomass, we have decided to exclusively collaborate with Farmers from the Uji Area. Besides choosing Uji for its perfect matcha growing conditions, our mission is to source the highest quality tea grown with care, knowledge and passion.

By |2017-06-05T23:48:49+00:00March 20th, 2017|Blog MMU|0 Comments

The Material Matcha Uji 宇治 Story

Material Matcha Uji 宇治 is the story of two friends, living in Japan for years, whom went on a quest for purity.

After due time spent in the dry world of business and finance, the two Frenchmen unreservedly let go and embarked on an journey to find and salvage the rarest tea making techniques.
They went straight to the source: the cradle of tea culture in Japan, Uji, Kyoto.

While they explored undiscovered flavours and confidential crafts, they met masters of tea-making. The masters, compelled by their wish to perpetuate ancient knowledge & excellence, gave MMU宇治 their blessing.

From their own atelier in Uji, MMU宇治 assess, design and supervise all steps of matcha making, pushing the boundaries of what the guardians themselves would deem “possible”.

By |2017-06-02T19:03:36+00:00March 20th, 2017|Blog MMU|0 Comments
New Order!