Matcha whisks (Chasen) vary from school to school in some instances. I am going to focus in on Urasenke as I do not know much about the other schools. For this school they keep to the classic bamboo colour as seen in these pictures, but can you spot the difference between them?
First off the handle (jiku) thickness varies. I have small hands so I prefer the one with a smaller Jiku, but these are hard to find. The other difference is the thicker Jiku Chasen is made in China. You can get Japanese made ones but here in Toronto they are next to impossible to find, I have two Japanese ones and I still feel I need to stock up on more.
The second difference is the number of tines on the head (hosaki). The China made one has 100 and the Japanese made one has about 90-80, both perfect for Usucha (thin) tea.
The weight of them is different when using as well. While I can quickly whip up a bowl with the 100 hosaki whisk, with the other one I need a little more time and muscle power. This is something that I need to work on considering my preference in size and weight.
I feel for the spring I will gift myself a good chasen. Nara, the place for the best chasen, is a type I would love to have these range in price from 35-60$ depending on where you look, sometimes more. The best advice is to try things out but always keep on hand what you are used to.
What kind of whisk do you have?
With thirteen teas in all it took a little over 2 hours to go
through them all. Tao steeped most of
the teas using a Professional Tea Tasting sets. Each set consists of a cup with
a lid and a small bowl. This set works similarly to a gaiwan when a fair cup is
used with it. In competitions and for
tea merchants this is the set that is used to pick the teas which win or get
Tao brewed the teas for us using these sets in a certain
manner. If you have been part of a Chinese tea ceremony before, you will recall
a part where the leaves are added to a warmed vessel and shaken. This releases
the aroma of the tea. Tao used the Tasting set in this manner during our tasting.
It increased the intensity of the teas aroma for us to determine which teas to
purchase in the end.
After this step Tao then added more
water to steep the leaves. After sufficient time the cup set was turned into
the bowl to catch the brew. Once all the tea had left the cup some leaves were
placed on top of the overturned lid to display the leaves. We then used a
Chinese soup spoon to spoon the tea into our cups. This worked especially well for the lighter
teas such as the Silver Needles.
At this very moment of finishing up
this post I am enjoying a cup of Jun Shan Yin Zhen, a yellow tea. Yellow tea production is just about one step
further from white tea, because of this additional time most places do not
produce yellow tea. As well the way to create such tea is not being passed down
from lack of interest from current generations.
To explain the extra
step required to make this tea, white tea is let to ferment covered which
changes the colour of the tea to a “yellow” hue. Te resulting tea when steeped
has a bit of a “fermented taste” which comes across as a little spicy as
well. For those of you who want a
lighter tea but has a bit more body then certainly try this tea out before this
Tao has two big tastings a year,
spring and for the Anniversary of his shop. Look out for the Anniversary
tasting outing in December! Support your local tea shops in your area by
checking out this year’s spring teas.
Here is the list of teas we sampled:
Silver needle Top grade, Silver needle old bush, Jun Shan Yin Zhen, Anji Bai Cha, Bi Luo Chun,
Long Jing, Phoenix Dan Cong- Honey Orchid, Tie Guan Yin, Jin Ping, Purple
Puerh, and Shui jing gui.
|Majesteas website- Robert and Ian are both part of The Tea Guild of Canada
After a lot of hard work from my good friends at Majesteas, it is finally up and running. Great timing too since Robert Gignac is off to China with Tao of Tao Tea Leaf latter this week. He has even started off the blog with an entry detailing information about various teas he will get to try. I wish him well on his trip and a safe return with teas to try.