Last week, I had a chance to see a tea ceremony and try portions of it out! This week, I thought that it would be interesting follow that post up with the teaware used during the ceremony, as well as give some tips on whisking matcha!
As part of the tea ceremony event, we tried portions of an « Obon Temae » ceremony, which is done in a tray. At Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms, we use portions of this ceremony in our tea tour, so it is what I am most familiar with. I also personally like how most of the tools are contained within the tray!
With that out of the way, let’s go!
Obon Temae Matcha Utensils
Chawan: This is a tea bowl which is used for both making and serving the matcha. There are different shapes, colour and decorations that chawans come in. For example, depending on the season, the bowl may be higher in the winter in order to keep in the heat, or wider in the summer in order to allow the tea to cool faster. Tea bowls for usucha (‘thin tea’) tends to be brighter and more colourful in comparison to the bowls used for koicha (‘thick tea’), which are more muted with no decorations.
Fukusa: A square silk cloth that is used by the host for wiping and purifying the utensils. Fukusas come in different colours such as red, orange, etc., and are folded very specifically.
Chashaku: A scoop made out of bamboo which is used to measure out the matcha. After scooping, it is customary to tap it at the edge of the chawan (tea bowl) to ensure that the matcha isn’t wasted.
Natsume: A tea caddy that is used for usucha (‘thin tea’). It is made out of lacquer, as opposed to a Chaire, which is made out of ceramic and is used for koicha (‘thick tea’).
Chasen: A bamboo whisk that is made from a single piece of bamboo split into eighty thin strands. When making matcha, the chasen needs to be heated to soften it so that the delicate strands do not break. Chasens come in various sizes.
Chakin: A white cloth that is used for wiping the chawan (tea bowl) after rinsing it with water.
Tetsubin: A cast-iron kettle used to heat up water for the tea ceremony. Tetsubin is normally used for students at the start of their tea ceremony studies before they learn how to use the hishaku (ladle).
Obon: The tray used to store and place all the utensils. Traditionally made out of wood.
Kensui: A waste-water bowl used for disposing of water that has been used to clean the other utensils. The waste-water is seen as unclean, and therefore the kensui is generally hidden from the guests.
There are many ways to whisk matcha – some tea schools enjoy a layer of bubbles, and others want none. I personally am most familiar with Urasenke, which involves whisking for bubbles. I find that many other people enjoy the bubbles as well, so I thought that I would share my tips for whisking.
Water: When pouring the water into the chawan, pour it in from the side. This is important because pouring the water on to the powder from above can cause it to puff up. If the water is too cool, it will be difficult to produce bubbles.
Chasen: When holding chasen, use three fingers: 2 in the front and 1 in the back for support.
Whisking: Speed is the key, not the duration of time. Whisking for too long can actually make it more difficult to make bubbles. After adding the water, gently ‘fold’ the matcha into the water, then pick up speed.
Use a back and forth motion when whisking, not a circular one. Hold your arm straight and use the wrist to whisk back and forth. Slightly tilt the wrist back toward the back of the bowl to lightly « bash » into it. This allows the whisk to have more surface space.
When there is a nice even coating of bubbles, whisk in a ‘w’ motion at the surface of the matcha in order to break up the big bubbles.
The more I learn about matcha tea ceremonies, the more I want to explore! It seems like with every turn there is something new!
Is there something that you’d like to learn about when it comes to matcha?
Written by Obubu intern Connie, who also has her own tea blog teainspoons.com