The chashaku is an important part of the Japanese tea ceremony. Although the bamboo matcha whisk gets all the attention, the chashaku serves an important role as well. In this article, we’re going to be looking at what the chashaku is and how it’s used. We’ll also highlight a few benefits of the chashaku, the best spoon for preparing matcha tea
What is a Chashaku (茶杓)?
The matcha chashaku is a bamboo spoon designed to scoop matcha powder during the Japanese tea ceremony. Although the origins of this bamboo chashaku date back to the tea ceremony, the chashaku is now used by matcha lovers all around the world. Although it has a simple design, there are a few features that make it the perfect tool for scooping matcha, which we will discuss next.
The name simply translates into “tea scoop” with cha (茶) meaning tea and shaku (杓) meaning scoop. The other two important tea utensils used in the tea ceremony are the chasen (tea whisk) and chawan (tea bowl). If you just learn a few Japanese characters, it can make it easy to decipher the meaning of a lot of the utensils used in the Japanese tea ceremony.
History of Matcha Chashaku
The matcha chashaku originated in Japan. If you are familiar with the history of Japanese tea, you will know that tea was originally brought to Japan from China by the monks. The Japanese monks would frequently go on missionary trips to China to learn techniques and philosophy from the Chinese monks. They found that the tea they were drinking helped them stay alert during long periods of meditation, and they eventually brought some tea back to Japan.
The tea being consumed at the time was mostly ground, similar to what we now call matcha. Of course with ground tea, it becomes important to have a good spoon to scoop the powder and so the chashaku scoop was a necessity. These matcha chashaku were originally designed out of metal or ivory and they were introduced to Japan during the Muromachi period from the 14th-15th century. Eventually, tea masters and monks found that wood was a more effective material to use for the chashaku and the bamboo chashaku was born!
Benefits of the Matcha Chashaku
A chashaku should be about 18 millimeters in length, long enough to reach into a container, but short enough that it can be easily wielded. The spoon is almost completely flat, with the exception of a 48° bend at the end for the scoop. The chashaku gets wider towards the scoop, so it is able to hold more powder.
This more vertical design makes it easier to scoop matcha powder out of more cylindrical containers. During the tea ceremony, the tea is brought inside a natsume or tea caddy. This tea caddy is a deeper container, and it would be much harder to scoop out of with a typical metal spoon.
When you prepare matcha tea at home, you will most likely be scooping the powder out of a matcha tin. Here you have the same problem as the matcha tin is a deeper, cylindrical container. You need something that you can easily dip in and out, like the chashaku.
Another benefit of the bamboo chashaku is that it is not made from metal. Most spoons are made from metal and this is thought to react negatively when it comes in contact with the matcha powder. The chashaku is made out of a slender piece of bamboo. The smooth outside of the bamboo is on the interior and this is what is in contact with the matcha powder. On the exterior you have the rougher, interior of the bamboo with the grains of wood to prove it. This has been sanded so that it has a smoother texture, but still not quite as smooth as the interior.
Finally, the chashaku scoop is actually a great measurement tool. Later we are going to discuss how to use the chashaku as a measurement tool and how to use the perfect amount of matcha powder in every bowl of matcha tea.
What is the chashaku measurement system and what is the chashaku scoop size?
If you ever take part in a Japanese tea ceremony, you’ll notice that the teamaster uses 2 scoops of matcha powder in each bowl of matcha tea. This may seem like an arbitrary amount of powder, but chashaku scoop size is a surprisingly accurate way to measure out the tea. The matcha chashaku is much more elegant than a teaspoon measure, and if you get the technique down, it can be almost as accurate.
How many bamboo chashaku spoon scoops should I serve per serving?
One heaping chashaku scoop of matcha is equivalent to about a third of a teaspoon of powder. By using two scoops of the chashaku, you are in between ½ - 1 teaspoon of powder, which is the perfect amount for preparing matcha in the usucha style. As you will find out, the chashaku measurement is an accurate and convenient way to measure out your matcha powder.
Why is the chashaku so small?
As we mentioned before, the chashaku scoop size is about ⅓ of a teaspoon, which is perfect for measuring out the matcha powder. The reason it is so small is because if it were any larger it would be difficult to maneuver in and out of the matcha tin or the natusume. The design is perfectly minimal, and the small chashaku scoop size makes it easy to use and also practical as well.
How to use a chashaku
Using the chashaku is quite simple. All you have to do is hold it by the thin part, just like you would a pencil and dip the scoop into the matcha container. It makes no difference whether you are using the chashaku in a matcha tin or a natsume, as they both have the same general shape. Next, push the edge of the chashaku into the matcha powder until you have as much powder on top as possible. Then you can simply lift the chashaku scoop out of the container, and very carefully place it over the matcha bowl or matcha sifter to dump it out.
The hardest part about using the chashaku is keeping the powder from falling off. It is very easy to scoop, but once you have a lot of matcha powder piled on top of the chashaku scoop, even the slightest mistake can cause all of it to come falling off. It may take a lot of practice until your hands are steady enough to scoop the powder without dropping any.
How to clean bamboo chashaku
During the Japanese tea ceremony, the tea master will clean off the bamboo chashaku with the fukusa. This towel is kept completely dry and it is meant to purify the chashaku not only physically, but symbolically as well. Purity is one of the 4 core principles of the Japanese tea ceremony, and one of the ways it is demonstrated is through the purification of the chashaku.
You can do this as well at home to clean your chashaku bamboo spoon. The most important thing is to not get your chashaku bamboo spoon wet. Because it is made out of bamboo, the water will really soak into the chashaku and cause problems overtime. As long as you are only using it for matcha powder, it should never really get that dirty. Just simply wipe it off with a dry towel or tissue from time to time, and you should be able to keep it nice and clean. Of course you will always have a little bit of a green tint to the chashaku scoop, but this just means it is well loved!
How is the chashaku made?
Just like with the chasen or bamboo matcha whisk, the chashaku is made out of a single piece of bamboo. A single strip is taken off of the bamboo, and it is slowly shaped and carved to have a bend towards the bottom for the scoop. If you briefly look at the chashaku, you can tell that it still resembles a stalk of bamboo. The notch in the middle has become a key design feature called the “arigoshi” or ant’s back hump. This was introduced by Sen no Rikyu in the 16th century and is now the standard across chashaku spoons.
Many Japanese tea masters choose to carve their own chashaku, to bring them a deeper level of connection to their teaware. The face of the chashaku is smooth and sleek, whereas the back of the chashaku is slightly more rough like partially finished wood. The chashaku has an aroma of young bamboo, which can enhance the matcha making experience.
Where to buy chashaku with a matcha whisk
You can get a free chashaku when you order the chasen matcha whisk from us. The chashaku spoon is a small but important tool when it comes to matcha preparation, and we give it for free in our matcha bundles. When you sign up for the monthly matcha club for example, you get a free chasen matcha whisk, a free chashaku matcha spoon and $75 worth of matcha delivered to you every month. This is a great way to not only try some of the best matcha teas from all over Japan, but also get all the tools you need in order to prepare them.
If you would prefer to try the teas all at once, you can try the matcha sampler bundle which includes 21 different types of pesticide free matcha tea, as well as the chawan matcha bowl, chasen matcha whisk and chashaku matcha spoon. Get everything you need when you order!