The distinctions between the two types of powdered tea used at a tea gathering begin
with the color of the leaves from which the tea is made:
those leaves that are vibrant bluish-green in color are ground for thin tea,
while the dark purplish-green leaves are used for thick tea.
The difference in color is due to many factors:
the amount of sunlight allowed on the plant, the type of fertilizer used,
and the methods of handling the freshly picked leaves.
But generally speaking,
the leaves from the upper portion of the tea plant are used to make thick tea,
while those from the lower portion are used for thin tea.
In addition, there is a difference in the way that the leaves for each are prepared:
after they have been picked, steamed, and dried,
those that are used for thick tea are ground more finely than are those used for thin tea.
The two kinds of tea are also distinguished by the kind of tea container in which each is stored,
the strength of the tea they make, and the manner in which the tea is served.
Thick tea, usually the sweeter of the two, is considered to be the more formal.
When it is to be served at a tea gathering, it is stored in a thick-tea container (cha-ire).
When making thick tea, three scoopfuls (about 3.5 grams) of the powdered tea are used per guest.
At a tea gathering, thick tea is served to all guests, one bowl being shared among them.
The host must therefore prepare in that one bowl the exact amount of tea needed
so that each guest can take about three-and-a-half sips before passing the bowl on to the next guest.
Thin tea is stored in a thin-tea container (usuchaki).
The amount of tea used to make thin tea varies according to the taste of each guest,
although one-and-a-half to two scoopfuls is usual.
Each bowl of thin tea is individually prepared and served to each guest.
Pictured below is a bowl of thin tea.