This came out last year, which means it’s at least fairly up to date. It was a nice enough watch, covering both a bit of tea history and a bit of tea culture, with a lot of on-sight views of tea gardens and tea houses. There were still a few gripes I had with it, though, which I don’t think detract from it as “a pleasant watch”, but I’ll get into them anyways.
There were a few short interviews with a number of tea tasters, a shop owner and a plantation owner. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more. A lot of the other interactions were with pickers, servers, and practitioners of gongfu, which were just plain awkward. A lot of it was just reporters standing around giggling awkwardly at the quaint non-english speakers. Actually, I don’t remember any translators being utilized at all in the film (all the short interviews were with English speakers), which definitely would have made it more interesting instead of all the shots of people smiling in uncomfortable silence instead.
Still liked the short interviews we got, although I wish more time had been spent at the Egyptian tea house and its owner. He seemed interesting, and only one of the reportedly many tea-drinks he served was actually showcased (Tea Cyclopedia‘s got a nice sized section on tea served in Egypt).
The history covered was pretty generic. There’s only so much detail you can go into in a short documentary. They covered the classical myth of the origin of tea, but didn’t really bother with any alternatives and left it at that. It breezes past the horrors of the Opium Wars, and doesn’t mention many players by name, although does briefly cover the introduction of tea into India.
There were a few pretty common history fluffs–Tom Sullivan being the inventor of the teabag, even though the patent for ‘tea-leaf holders’ existed before he’s credited for accidentally introducing them. Richard Blechynden ‘inventing’ iced tea in the 1900s, although in actuality he merely popularized a beverage dating from as early as the 1870s.
They do a lot of travelling to introduce common tea rituals in different countries, and although there isn’t much depth, they sort of introduce interesting things you can google later.
Like the Seven Layered Tea from Bangladesh, which is one I hadn’t heard of before and definitely warrants a google. The idea is that the different layers are a secret, and you’re to guess the recipe from taste. That one’s going on my bucket list. Some interesting videos and articles for perusal.
In the end, I think it could have been improved with some headers and captions, since it tended to jump around a bit. It was short and interesting, probably not worth the watch if you’ve read enough books/seen enough adverts, but I’d still recommend it if you haven’t. The documentary ends with an interview with owners of a new-age tea company focusing on small-batch family-owned tea growing and production, something that’s quickly been gaining popularity the last few years, so I found it extremely relevant (although it was very ‘new’ in 2014).