The Japanese Whisk That Makes My Mornings a Million Times Better

published May 26, 2020
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woman having a cup of coffee while standing in her kitchen at home
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While jig-saw puzzles and (rewatching!) Tiger King are helping to break up the monotony that comes with all this sheltering in place, I’m also finding that some extra-special daily routines can be especially comforting. Turns out, safety and stability are commodities just like toilet paper and all-purpose flour. For me, I find comfort in my morning matcha ritual, which I’ve been enjoying every day for the last few months.

What Is Matcha?

Matcha, if you don’t already know, is finely ground Japanese green tea, made with green tea plants that are grown in the shade for three to four weeks before they’re harvested. With a high amount of calming L-theanine and energy-boosting caffeine, matcha is a nice alternative to your average cup of Joe — especially if the current news headlines are leaving you a bit on edge. 

How Do You Make Matcha?

Conveniently, the only tool you need to properly make matcha is a bamboo tea whisk like this one, known as a chasen in Japan. Unlike a traditional metal whisk that you’d use to whip up eggs, for example, a chasen is carved out of a single piece of bamboo, with delicate tines for frothing up tea.

Traditional matcha is made with nothing but hot water and matcha powder, which is whisked with a brisk-yet-delicate motion, until the tea is absorbed into the water, resulting in a frothy drink. Note: This whisking in and of itself is also ridiculously calming these days!

Credit: Sarah Woehler

How Matcha Is Making My Mornings Better

When I was in Kyoto last spring, I learned from a tea master at Ippodo Tea Company how to properly use a chasen to make matcha. After showing me how to do it, he then observed my technique, showing me that a lighter grip is what allows you to whisk more briskly, creating those desirable little bubbles at the top of matcha.

The next day, I attended my first traditional Japanese tea ceremony at Camellia Garden, a 100-year-old tea house nestled in Ryoan-ji. During the ceremony, I learned that while the tea master makes the tea you don’t say a word, bowing to her after she serves you. This firsthand Chanoyu experience made me realize how comforting these conscious moments of quiet are, whether you’re with other people or totally alone. 

When I returned from my trip, armed with a newfound appreciation for the ritual of matcha, along with the knowledge of making it, I found myself turning to my chasen every once in a while — just whenever I found myself craving a calming force to ground me. Now? Well, these days I use it every single morning. My own personal matcha ritual makes me reminisce about my time in Japan, and also helps me create some solace before I start my day. It’s a simple, little ritual that helps me remember to take a minute and enjoy some peace. Who knows what will happen tomorrow or the day after that? But I know, at least, that I’ll have a cup of matcha.

Do you have any little rituals helping you through these days? Tell us about them in the comments below.