You don’t have to be a tea drinker to enjoy this warm film from documentary legend Les Blank. The passion and eloquence with which the tea connoisseurs interviewed here talk about the beverage is a delight in itself, a soul-nourishing reminder of what worlds of meaning and experience open up when you really love something. Though a few of these enthusiasts are featured — among them, filmmaker Werner Herzog — it’s mainly centered around David Lee Hoffman, an American importer who swims against the tide of capitalism, mass production, and environmental damage to champion the hand-crafted teas he’s so passionate about. As the film chronicles, however, his insistence on buying directly from the boutique farmers — sometimes traveling hours into the remote Chinese countryside to do so — often puts him at odds with the economic interests of the big-time exporters he must work with.
Hoffman isn’t persistent in the face of all these hurdles for the sake of a buck, though: the film follows his linked efforts to encourage organic farming practices and a direct-from-the-source marketplace that will give the farmers a fair price for their hard work. That his love for the drink also encompasses the artisans who make it and the ground that grows it makes this an inspiring watch.
Genre: Documentary, Drama
Actor: Werner Herzog
Director: Gina Leibrecht, Les Blank