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合成樹脂茶筅 - Chasen made of synthetic resin

Developing takes time. 

More than 900 years ago, Japanese monks brought tea plants, tea bowls as well as tea whisks back from their study trips to China. 

With the work on further development and refining, the traditional tea whisk made of bamboo is now also available as a tea whisk made of resin. 

Six month ago I bought myself one of these robust and modern tea whisks. 

Now let me share my experience with you.

Can the Resin Tea Whisk be a competitor to the traditional bamboo tea whisk?

Chasen, the Japanese tea whisk, is traditionally made of bamboo and is an essential element for preparing Matcha.

It should be considered that the bamboo tea whisk is one of the utensils that needs to be replaced regularly.

Usually, the price range is from ¥ 800 up to ¥ 20,000 in Japan.

Replacing the bamboo tea whisk can therefore become an expensive matter in the course of time.

How often the bamboo tea whisk has to be replaced, depends on its quality, climate conditions and how well it was taking care of. Especially broken tines and mold are the main reasons for buying a new one.

If you're a regular Matcha-drinker, you've probably noticed that a bamboo tea whisk needs a rather long time to fully dry. By knowing that, a Chasen for practicing purposes and daily uses would be nice.

About one year ago, I discovered tea whisks made of resin on Rakuten. At the beginning I was skeptical, but also curious, mainly about its whisking performance. And so I bought one.

Shipped in a hard plastic box which was difficult to open

The tea whisk comes with a whisk holder. Both items are made of resin, also called ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), which is a common thermoplastic polymer.

Its special properties include, among others, its resistance to temperatures up to 100°C, its good resistance to oils and fats, its weather resistance and its high stability against ageing. Furthermore, ABS is recyclable.

The Resin Tea whisk can be disassembled into three parts.

When unpacking, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that there was no smell of plastic material!

Another positive aspect is the cleaning. The durable material ABS can easily be cleaned with water or dish soap and a sponge. However, it is not suitable for dishwasher.

Available in four colors: ivory (bamboo color), pink, green and brown.

The price varies between  ¥ 2,700 and  ¥ 3,200 - depending on the shop.

Chasen made of resin vs Chasen made of bamboo

Whisking and kneading the Matcha is an art that requires a Chasen.

"Chasen" is a general term. There are not just different kinds of designs, but also different types.

Traditionally, the Chasen is made of bamboo. It can be made either of fresh, dried or smoked bamboo.

Carving a Chasen out of one piece of bamboo is a tradition that should be preserved.

The question is thus asked as before : Can the traditional Chasen be replaced?

For this experiment, I bought a new Chasen, because I've never used a 70-pronged bamboo tea whisk before.

May it be forgiven me that I did not buy a Japanese Chasen, but the cheaper Chinese version.

Both tea whisks nearly have the same number of prongs.
¥ 2,700 vs ¥ 975

1. Preparing Usucha

Matcha: Awaraku (泡楽) by Marukyu Koyamaen
My parameters: 2g of Matcha powder per 60ml of hot water (80°C)
Preparing style: the semi-traditional way (whisking)
Preparing tools: resin tea whisk vs bambo tea whisk (Kazuho)

After pre-wetting, the new bamboo tea whisk unfolds its bristles.
To make the tines soft and flexible, they are soaked in hot water. This prevents them from breaking off while whisking.

When using the resin tea whisk this step is not necessary.

Personally, I like the part of pre-wetting. It gives me time to focus on the next steps.

The increased practice with the resin tea whisk during the past few months made it really easy to create a nice froth with a 70-pronged bamboo tea whisk.

I was surprised.

I have always believed that besides the Matcha to water ratio and the quality of Matcha, the number of tines is important. Maybe I should reconsider this opinion.

It is possible to create a nice rich foam with both Chasen, just by thoroughly whisking.

The resin tea whisk is intended to be used for practicing. And you will definitely have some minor issues in creating a fine froth at the beginning.

While whisking, the mass that has to be moved, feels heavier. It turned out that flat Matcha bowls and small Matcha bowls are sub-optimal. To prevent spills, it is recommended to use tea bowls with higher walls.

The picture above shows the froth results after whisking with the resin tea whisk (L) and the bamboo tea whisk (R).

Even if I had to slow down the speed of whisking in order not to spill some of the Matcha tea, I have not yet been able to create a really fine froth with the resin tea whisk.

In brief summary this means, the resin tea whisk is good for practice, but creating a fine froth is not as easy as with a bamboo tea whisk.

2. Preparing Koicha

Matcha: Eiju (永寿) by Marukyu Koyamaen
My parameters: 4g of Matcha powder per 35ml of hot water (90°C)
Preparing style: the semi-traditional way (kneading)
Preparing tools: resin tea whisk vs bamboo tea whisk (Chuaraho)

One does not necessarily need a special Chasen for preparing Koicha. (→ Omotesenke)

But from my experience it is better to use a Chasen that is exclusively designed for preparing Koicha - not least because the kneading performance puts more weight on the tines.

80+ pronged Chasen have very thin tines and will break off more easily while kneading. And you can believe me that drinking a piece of bamboo is not a very pleasant experience.

rough- and fine-tined tea whisks
Chuaraho-type Chasen (2yr) - Resin Chasen (6mth) - Kazuho-type Chasen (2mth) - Unge-type Chasen (5yr)

Preparing a delicious bowl of Koicha definitely requires more practice .

Rough-tined Chasen, that have thicker and fewer prongs, are best used for preparing Koicha. This includes among others also the Kazuho type.

And even if not explicitly stated, the resin tea whisk can be used for practicing Koicha. Its tines are flexible and thicker than the thin tines of the Kazuho-type Chasen.

The Kazuho type is good for whisking as well as for kneading the Matcha. Though I prefer this type of Chasen for making Usucha.

gently kneading the Matcha creates a smooth Koicha

The kneading performance of the resin tea whisk revealed that there is a general problem while preparing Koicha: Some Matcha accumulates and forms a ball in the inner ring of bristles (Uchiho - 内穂) and does not come away without the help of an additional tool.

See at lower right in the picture above! The picture was taken shortly after whisking the resin tea whisk in water to clearly show the accumulation of Matcha.

And although Eiju made a delicious bowl of Koicha. It seems to me that the consistency and the taste is not as good as with using a bamboo tea whisk.

Conclusion: For preparing Koicha use a bamboo tea whisk!

Finally, a general summary 

The following table provides an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of both types of Chasen.

Resin Bamboo
Pros • no mold-formation occurs
• odorless material
• price over long term
• very good for beginners
• no pre-wetting
• stable in shape
• no broken tines
• four colors to choose from
• pros of ABS
• inexpensive
• different kinds of designs
• different types
• artistic beauty
• low weight
• natural material
• tradition
Cons • appearance of the froth
• whisking performance
• kneading performance
• there is only one type
• price
• material
• mold
• cheap = poor quality
• price
• pre-wetting is a must
• appearance after it begins to loose its form
• broken tines
• bamboo is a plant that needs plenty of water
• possibly bleached

Would I buy this tool again? Yes, simply because my whisking performance improved. And I can always take it with me on a trip without worrying, because its hygienic, doesn't go moldy and only a minimum risk of damage exists, if the resin tea whisk falls down. The perfect travel companion so to say.

But I am confident for many reasons, that the traditional bamboo tea whisk cannot be replaced by the resin tea whisk.

To close, let me say that I will be interested to see whether international and local vendors will offer the resin tea whisk.

Would you be interested in a Chasen made of resin?

Would you choose a bamboo tea whisk or a resin tea whisk?

Wikipedia. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. Retrieved 24.08.2015.

This post first appeared on A Matcha Enthusiast's Diary, please read the originial post: here

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合成樹脂茶筅 - Chasen made of synthetic resin


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