With its inherent good looks and charm, tea
is a natural star on the silver screen. Here are a few of the documentary films about tea that have chronicled the histories, cultures and techniques behind it.
âAll in This Teaâ
Perhaps the most famous tea documentary made to date, âAll in This Teaâ follows American tea aficionado (and early industry leader in the U.S. specialty tea movement) David Lee Hoffman as he travels through China in search of the best teas he can find. Always informative and occasionally funny, this Les Blank documentary also features interviews with tea notables such as James Norwood Pratt (author of âThe Tea Loverâs Treasuryâ) and Winnie Yu (owner/importer at Teance in Berkeley, CA).
âThe Lord of Darjeelingâ
This beautifully shot, Cannes-screened DVD comes with the book âThe Rajah of Organic Darjeeling Tea: Makaibari,â which you can read more about in this list of tea books
. It focuses on the daily life and work of Rajah Banerjee, the owner of Darjeelingâs famed Makaibari Estate and the so-called âLord of Darjeeling.â
âThe Meaning of Teaâ
This wide-reaching documentary spans continents and centuries in its exploration of the (possibly dwindling) meaning of the tea in high-tech, fast-paced cultures that are increasingly prone to buying mass-market foods and drinks. I only wish it had been made a few years later so it could have covered the current trend toward tea consumption in American tech sectors!
âThe Renaissance of Teaâ
This in-depth and authoritative DVD from Teance was shot in China, Taiwan and the U.S. It covers Chinese and Taiwanese tea processing techniques to an unprecendented level and includes interviews with tea authorities, such as James Norwood Pratt and Winnie Yu of Teance. Unlike other tea DVDs, it includes abundant information on tea preparation methods and techniques.
âRobert Fortune: The Tea Thiefâ
This Australian documentary chronicles the British-led espionage of Chinaâs tea industry by Scottish botanist/adventurer Robert Fortune. Confusing? Donât worryâ¦ unlike âMagnolia,â âIt will all make sense in the end.â
âTea: A Mirror of Soulâ and âTea: Broken Silenceâ
These films are two sides of the same coin: a tragic, stunning, tea-inspired opera and the making of it. The opera itself uses unconventional approaches to convey the singularity and depth of tea as a beverage, while the documentary explores the creation of it through interviews and opera footage. The operaâs composer, Tan Dun, is best known for composing the score for âCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.â