Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Way of Whisking

Graceful Whisking

In a movie “Ask this of Rikyu”, there is the scene where Ms. Miki Nakatani as Souon prepares tea. When I watched it, I thought that her performance was not so significant. However, the other day, I had a chance to watch the scene again. I realized how gracious her whisking sound and tempo were. It is sometimes said “Whisk lightly” in Omotesenke tradition. It was kind of hard for me to get a sense of it, but how Ms. Nakatani whisks struck me. This is it! It was comfortable and natural like the way a bird or an insect sings. She starts whisking it slowly, and gradually quickens her pace to the peak. Then, she keeps the constant beat. Again gradually it slows down and the whisk leaves the bowl gently. People are sometimes too busy about making froth. I wonder how many people can actually care about the grace and pace when they whisk. Whisking is my recent interest.

Good Matcha and Bad Matcha

In my tea class, I noticed that the tea taste differ, depending on student preparing it even though we use the same utensils, water and matcha. It is no wonder that the amount of water and tea are the most influential factor. However, I also noticed the way of moving the whisk differs among the students. I wonder if the way of whisking gives certain impact to the taste. I often find the tea brewed by a particular classmate bitter.

Experimenting on the Way of Wishking

I made three servings of matcha with different strength of whisking.
A: Harsh 20sec
B: Medium 20sec
C: Light 10sec
I try to peg my ideal whisking by Ms. Nakatani at “B”. I tried the other two, “A” and “C”, to imitate the way of two students from my tea class. Do you think I will find a certain difference among the three, or my ideal whisking makes better tasting tea? Let’s take a look at the result.

My Presumption Failed

One of my classmates whisks matcha hardly and I sometimes find his tea bitter. So, I expected a harsh whisking makes matcha bitter. Unfortunately, I could not find a significant difference in taste between the harsh whisking “A” and the normal whisking “B”. My presumption was wrong. I could find some texture in “C”, and the water and the tea were not blended well. What I can say from today’s test is “whisk well”. Despite of the result, I still believe that the way of whisking affects the taste in some degree, so I’ll keep seeking this issue, and I’m still attracted to Ms. Nakatani’s whisking.

Rhythmical Pace

In the movie, the camera doesn’t capture her hands entirely so I don’t know her specific moves. However, from the sound, I can tell that she whisks constantly with a comfortable rhythm. I don’t hear any irregular stroke. I actually timed her whisking. It was 20 sec with about 70 strokes. She changed the pace gradually and gracefully from the beginning to the peak, and the peak to finish. In my case, to try not to make lumps, I used to whisk with strokes like the letter “M”. It sounded kind of unsteady. Moreover, sometimes when a lump gets on the wall of the bowl, I try to get it down with an irregular stroke while whisking. It is quite difficult to whisk constantly and without getting any lumps. That is my challenge for now.

The way of whisking differs depending on school traditions. What I talked here is not an absolute way.
I took a video of the test I did. If you don’t see the subtitles, please check the setting of your YouTube.


  1. This was interesting to watch, Kohei-san. Thank you. I hope you didn't have too much caffeine!

    For myself I am more "harsh" in whisking, but I find that word too negative in English, so maybe "strong" or "quick" would be better. In my view it is the air in the foam that creates less bitterness, but I could be wrong.

    I can't wait until "Ask Rikyu" is subtitled and released here!


    1. Thank you very much for your English lesson. I really appreciate it. For me as a language learner, it is a difficult part to understand the correct nuances of words. Now I know “harsh” has a negative meaning and I’ll be more careful using it. Thanks for your advice.
      As you say, some people find the fine foam make the tea mild. I think it’s true. I would like to keep on seeking this issue myself.

    2. Kohei-san,
      I was thinking perhaps "vigorous" would also be a suitable word instead of "harsh".

      I have a question about the foam produced with whisking. I find the higher the quality of matcha the finer the foam is and it is easier to achieve a good deal of foam. If you have ever tried to whisk "cooking matcha" you would see very little foam.

      Is this experience also true for you?

    3. Hi, Lin-san,

      All right, “Vigorous”! It’s new vocabulary for me! Thanks for the lesson!

      You have a keen observation! I have not notice the difference of the foam depending on the grade of matcha. However, you might be right. I have experienced that even with the same matcha, I got more foam with sifted matcha rather than non-sifted one. So, maybe, the matcha with finer grains helps to create a good quality of foam. I have never tried a cooking matcha but I guess that it might have coarse grains. So, you assumption could be true. Thanks for sharing your interesting thought!

    4. Very good blog! I am lucky to be living in Japan with so many types of tea to experiment with :) Thank you for your lessons!

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