Matcha in Fuzhou

After a long day of tea drinking with the aunties, I opted to practice at home instead of showing up to guqin class Saturday morning. It was shaping up to be a busy day already, and I was anticipating both a calligraphy competition and—surprisingly—sado demonstration at the Fuzhou City Library in the afternoon.

Let’s start with the calligraphy competition.

Aside from the entire thing being rather poorly run (we were given paper but not mats or ink, the tables were way too small, and the paper was way too big), my fatal mistake was that I submitted a piece of semi-cursive calligraphy.

As I walked out of the room, I noticed that everybody else had submitted regular script.

I froze. Did I misread the requirements? No—the brochure stated clearly that we were free to submit any script we’d like. So did everybody submit standard script because of personal preference?

As I walked to the lobby, a classmate came up to me and said, “Hey—what script was that? The one you just submitted. I can’t really read what it says.”

I laughed, “It’s semi-cursive.”

“Oh,” she replied. “Perhaps the judges will like that your piece is unique?”

I shrugged. We both knew my submission would be cast off to the side because there wasn’t anything to compare it to. It’d be extremely difficult to rank it against under pieces if the script is totally different.

It was 3:30. The sado demonstration had just begun. I hadn’t had matcha in months, and the thought of potentially tasting some again compelled me to leave.

The awards ceremony for the competition was at 4:30, but I wasn’t planning on sticking around. I dashed out of the building and hopped onto the subway train, ultimately making it to the library by 4:15.

It was a demonstration on bonryaku, the first temae I had learned when I was living in Kyoto. It was interesting as I had never heard sado being explained in Chinese before. The audience—mostly local tea connoisseurs and people affiliated with Fujian’s tea industry—were curious about how to grade and price matcha, whereas in my past experiences with American classmates, people typically ask about the wagashi.

In the end, I got to whisk and drink a nice hot bowl of matcha, and the instructor mentioned that while small, there is an Urasenke community in Fuzhou (or at least there was five years ago). She offered to contact them for me and see if they’re still active. If so, I’d finally be able to practice tea again! Fingers crossed~

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