Tea Ceremony changes from season to season. This month, we switched from Thin Tea in a Winter Style to the more formal Thick Tea in a Winter Style. Thick tea uses twice the powdered matcha tea and half the water, for an extra-strong grassy taste. Drinking a cup of thin matcha tea has 10 times the antioxidants and other nutritional benefits of a regular cup of green tea, so imagine how healthy the thick tea must be. I will think about that while I grimace and try to acquire a taste for it. Anyway, I really like regular matcha, especially homemade matcha lattes, with matcha dissolved in warm milk. Driving to tea lessons I usually feel frazzled thanks to winter’s inexplicable traffic, ridiculous road-blocking tree cutters that all appear on the same days, the unforgivably slow drivers going 10 kilometers under the 30 kph speed limit so everyone behind them is forced to drive 20kph—12.4 mph—behind them (this happens on a weekly basis), the totally pointless stoplights where you look around and realize there isn’t even a cross street…you’re sitting at a red light in the middle of the road for absolutely no reason, etc. For obvious reasons, driving in Japan in February makes me want to rip my hair out. What a contrast to come into the tea room, humbly bow to the others, take that slow, focusing breath, and mindfully whisk and blend a thoughtful cup of tea. So for the rest of the winter: more tea, less driving. Aaahhhh, that feels better already. The above tea container (cha-ire) and silk pouch are unique to the thick tea ceremony, as is the unadorned, formal tea bowl shared among tea guests. For practice, I like to use my plum blossom tea bowl (top), made in Kyoto and purchased in Machida from a retired tea ceremony instructor. It matches the super-cute little tea sweets I buy from the tea sweets shop a few blocks down the river. That little green bird is famous in Japan for loving plum blossoms. He was delicious. Tea and plum blossoms…what could be better?