Matcha is made with only two ingredients—matcha powder and hot water—but there’s nothing simple about the sublime art of chanoyu, least of all the tools you need to brew the perfect cup of tea.
Brewing ceremonial-grade matcha is a complex, highly ritualized practice that can take years to master. Tea students combine Zen Buddhist principles of unity, purity, and focus with an environment curated down to the tiniest details—like the color and arrangement of flowers in a vase—with serenity and communion as the highest ideals. Making the perfect cup of matcha is a process.
But don’t get intimidated. All you need to take your first step toward a life filled with delicious matcha are a little information, and four simple tools:
- A chasen – a short, bamboo whisk
- A chawan – a clay bowl
- Ceremonial-grade matcha powder
- And hot water (1-2.5 oz. depending how thick you like your matcha)
That’s it. However, like most things, the simplicity of the tools belies a world of nuance. For instance, the bowl you use can vary wildly.
If you prefer koicha tea (thick matcha), you’ll use a smaller bowl. Usucha tea (thin matcha) requires more water and vigorous strokes of the chawan (whisk) to get the desired froth, so a larger bowl is important. But there’s more.
Shallow bowls rapidly disperse heat, letting the tea cool quickly, so they’re great during the summer. Deeper bowls retain that toasty heat on chilly winter nights. As a host, knowing which bowl to use to best serve your guests, depending on the weather, is all part of the matcha ceremony. And the quest for the perfect bowl continues.
Chawan bowls are also frequently named by their creators or owners—or even a tea master if you’re lucky! Some bowls can date back centuries and are only for very special occasions. The best chawans are thrown by hand, with each unique irregularity and imperfection contributing their tiny part to the greater whole of the kokoroire—literally “pouring one’s heart into the tea ceremony” that makes chanoyu so special every single time.
The best part of these handmade chawan bowls are the imperfections. The little flaws and signs of construction—like warping or grain from the clay—are always prominently featured as the “front” of the bowl to showcase that while they’re not perfect, they’re unique, and that’s what matters most.
So, take heart from the true spirit of the Japanese tea ceremony. Making matcha is not about perfection, but effort and sincerity. Make the best matcha that you can with the tools you have, and you’ll be one step closer to becoming the tea master you always wanted to be.