Die Abenteuer des Robert Fortune: Wie ein Mann den Chinesen den Tee klaute. Documentary by Jérôme Scemia, 93 min., 2016. China had closed its border to Europeans and kept the cultivation and processing of tea as its secret. The British had increased opium production in India to exchange this for tea from China. When the Chinese government prohibited further opium imports in the mid-nineteenth century, the British forced it to open its ports to European trade. But Europeans still could not enter the country. The British East India Company sent Scottish Botanist Robert Fortune to China to spy out Chinese tea production. He returned with knowledge, seeds and tea plants. The British had discovered tea trees in Assam in India and with the knowledge of tea cultivation and processing that Robert Fortune had brought encouraged them to establish large-scale plantation and produce its own “homegrown” tea. This meant the end of the Chinese tea monopoly.
Die Teestraße von Yunnan bis Tibet. A documentary by Emmanuel Tronquart and Michel Noll, 94 and 124 minutes. Language: German. Caravans travelled 4000 km across four climatic zones to transport Puer tea on the “Horse road” from Yunnan in China to Lhasa in Tibet.
The Ancient Tea Road, 2008, 100 min. by ZHOU Weiping, Peter HERCOMBE and Michel NOLL. CCTV 9 documentary. The tea road crosses the roof of the world along more than 4,000 tortuous kilometers, 20 mountain chains and two desert plateaus. It traverses four great rivers and the territory of 20 different ethnic groups. The ancient tea road connects Southwest China to Tibet, Nepal, India, Persia, Mongolia and Russia. Marco Polo travelled along this road, as did countless horse and camel trains for centuries. This HD feature film follows the hoof prints of these caravans that carried tea across the Tibetan plateau and the Himalayas to be sold in the markets of South West Asia.
The Tea Trail. A documentary with Simon Reeve, 2017, 60 min. BBC. This film is documents tea production in East Africa. The adventurer and journalist Simon Reeve heads to Kenya and Uganda to uncover the stories behind Britain’s favourite drink, meeting the people who pick, pack and transport tea.
Arranging the Tea Table, 1946. This film explains the reasoning behind attractive and correct tea table arranging.
All in this Tea, 2007, by Les Blank and Gina Leibrecht, Flower Films. 70 min. USA. The film follows the American tea connoisseur David Lee Hoffman on his travels to remote tea-growing regions in China, where he looks for the best teas available during the 1990s, and his discussions about faire trade issues and organic growing methods. It is one of the most well-known tea-related documentaries available. The film is part informational, part personal commentary, with interviews of other tea aficionados throughout.
Tea: The Story of a Leaf. Chongxiao Wang, produced by CCTV, released in 2013. The film includes six informative documentary episodes produced by China to explore Chinese tea culture. Informative and also beautifully made, the documentary explores the history of tea, types of tea, making, brewing, the people who drink it, the tea relationship between countries, the philosophy of tea, the future of it.
The Bitter Cup: The Dark Side of the Tea Trade, a DW documentary by Eric Hane. This film examines the exploitative conditions on large-scale tea plantations in India. It asks why Indian tea workers are not benefiting from the global tea boom. They live in poverty and are exposed to highly toxic pesticides at work, while others profit from their labour. In Germany, consumers are prepared to pay high prices for top-quality tea. But tea plantation workers in Darjeeling and Assam are not benefiting from the global tea culture boom. Some of the tea produced under such conditions is labelled as Fair Trade Certified. Ultimately, the pesticides used in tea farming also end up in consumers’ tea cups. Researchers found up to eight different types of pesticides in Indian tea sold in German supermarkets. Many of these substances are so dangerous that they are banned in Germany.
The Spirit of Tea, a documentary produced by CCTV. This clip is made from a 6-parts-documentary on Tea from China Central Television (CCTV1, the main TV station in China), broadcast throughout China in November, 2013. Episode #6, on how tea has transformed people's destiny, featured Matthew London and his book and exhibition “The Spirit of Tea”.
The Hope of Tea. This documentary explores the canvas of tea farming in Pakistan. It questions the current government’s attempts to reduce tea imports by establishing tea plantations. Pakistan is now one of the largest importers of tea, but the domestic tea plantation is not able to even produce one percent of the current demand of the country, according to the statistics of the institute itself.
A Mystery Drink: The History of Tea, by History TV. This film sets out to teach its audience about the history, characteristics and advantages of the tea plant.
The Lord of Darjeeling. France, 2006. By Xavier de Lauzanne. In Darjeeling, at the far ends of India and Nepal, Rajah Banerjee is the owner of a family tea establishment that produces one of the most sought-after teas in the world. Banerjee was one of the first to dedicate himself to organic agriculture and fair trade. He is a charismatic figure who roams his gardens on horseback and elegantly makes us think about the possible harmony between man and nature.
The Meaning of Tea. 2008. 74 min. Tea Dragon Films. This film by James Norwood Pratt features the journey of Scott Chamberlin Hoyt through India, Japan, Taiwan, Morocco, England, France, Ireland and South Dakota to uncover the tea’s mysterious appeal. It explores the worldwide meaning of tea, and how the meaning has changed in response to various technology and cultural shifts, especially the prevalence of mass marketed, mass produced food and beverage products. Of this film is a CD available The Music of Tea, with the original sound track. And there is a book: The meaning of Tea.
The Renaissance of Tea. 2005, by F. Lit Yu. This film provides information pertaining to both the history and culture of tea, while also reviewing the proper preparation methods. This film provides a unique perspective on the industry of tea with a focus on the processing techniques found in China and Taiwan and the use of tea within the United States.
Robert Fortune: Tea Thief. 2001, Belgium, 52 min. by Diane Perelsztejn. The documentary chronicles the efforts of Robert Fortune, a Scottish botanist, chosen to help the British Empire to spy on Imperial China for the purpose of learning their secrets related to tea. This mission was given to a young and brilliant Scottish botanist: Robert Fortune. The mission included exploration of the secret manufacturing processes. China was the only tea producer and seller. For five thousand years, it was jealously guarding the manufacturing secrets and refused to share them.
Tea: Chakyouibun’ Tan Dun Sakkyoku. 2002, Japan, a TV movie of an opera based on historical occurrences. Tea tells the story of Seikyo as he finds peace from “bitter love” through the use of ritual tea ceremonies. The film tells an ancient story, combining aspects of traditional Italian opera, classic Western orchestral arrangements, and the sounds of nature.