A big tea story held in a small cup. Hello, I’m Christy Hui, director & producer & writer of 9 DRAGONS TEA. People often ask me, “Why did I make this film?” Here I’d like to share my tea story with you and why I spent the last two and a half years making this all-embracing documentary. So come along, and let’s go on a tea-ride.
There’s something about tea.
Tea is a simple beverage with an extraordinary story. The ancient roots of Camellia Sinensis (her Latin name) reach far and deep, crossing oceans, connecting people, changing history.
Tea knows no borders, no language gaps, no cultural divides. This tea film answers one big question:
Why is tea the cup of humanity?
Did you know that all the tea thrown into Boston Harbor on Dec. 16, 1773, was from China? Two hundred and thirty-four (234) chests, two-thirds of the entire load, were Black tea from the Wuyi Mountains.
A background steeped in tea
Growing up in China, I watched my father drink Gong Fu Tea as a kid. So I love tea. In my adult years, tea became an obsession. I devoured countless books and other literature on tea and attended tea-tasting classes every Sunday for three years.
What’s my favorite tea? Oolong. I discovered this wonderful golden elixir on a business trip to Taiwan. Dong Ding Oolong was my go-to tea every afternoon, not only for its fragrance and taste but also because Oolong tea helps remove oil and grease after a heavy meal. It was my secret recipe to rein in a growing waistline after splurging on sumptuous meals in Asia. A tea enthusiast, I knew tea—or so I thought.
Tea enthusiast. Shocked.
A few years ago, a friend asked if I knew what the world’s most expensive tea was. “A well-aged Pu-erh,” I replied, sure of myself.
My friend shook his head and continued: “The most expensive tea is Oolong tea. DA HONG PAO, in fact. It was sold at a Hong Kong auction for a little over $1,000 per gram. Only 20 grams were available. This Oolong tea is legendary in China.”
I was shocked. And driven to know more! When I returned home from the party, my first Google search was “DA HONG PAO.”
Secrets buried in the mountains
Months later, I found myself on a flight bound for Shanghai, followed by a bullet train trip, which delivered me safely to the serene arms of the Wuyi Mountains—the Heart of Tea! Emerald tea fields filled my vision.
By the end of my seven-day trip, I learned that my favorite Dong Ding Oolong from Taiwan actually originated in Wuyishan. This discovery was indeed a big surprise because I’ve been drinking Dong Ding Oolong for nearly 20 years. <What a Ding Dong!> Yet, I never knew its origin. For the first time, I realized the tea realm is indeed filled with mysteries and unearthed stories.
It turns out Wuyishan is also the birthplace of the world’s Black teas, Li Shan Xiao Zhong, or Lapsang Souchong Black tea, aka Bohea.
Top the teapot with more research
Research proved to be more daunting than I ever anticipated. After eight months of study, I found myself spinning down the rabbit hole into the vortex of tea. Like unraveling an onion, all of my previous tea knowledge barely prepared me for the endless layers that I found hidden inside the ancient karsts of Wuyishan.
There were many ups and downs as I pieced together the ancient puzzle of tea. There were layers of mysteries, crisscrossing thousands of years of Chinese tea history, three centuries of tea trade with Europe, culminating in the greatest tea raid by the British East India Company; how the infamous tea spy Robert Fortune (aptly named) slipped through the tightly guarded city ports to smuggle tea plants, tea seeds, and many tea-masters into India. This tea hunting story made a fantastic final chapter in the film. The research paid off!
So two and a half years later, my learning boils down to this:
The tea realm is a vast, deep subject.
And this is why I love tea. To wrap up, here are my top reasons for making 9 Dragons Tea.
Five reasons why I made this film
- I want this film to illuminate tea’s long evolving culture in the motherland of China.
- This tea film documents the true story of her epic journey from China to the West and how tea infused into global culture.
- Next to water, tea is the most popular beverage on the planet. However, her history and origins are often muddy and misunderstood. Even in some prestigious museums dedicated to tea history, I found the facts and material obscured. I hope that the film inspires those museums to clarify their picture of tea’s true roots and full history.
- Through this film, I’d like to promote discussion within the tea community on the importance of further scientific research. Especially how the manufacturing process impacts the health benefits of tea.
- As a tea lover, I’d like to raise awareness on preserving the environment and improving best practices to ensure future generations can enjoy quality tea.
I can’t wait for you to watch the film! And I hope this work of art inspires an appreciation and love for tea because tea is extraordinary! To your health. Cheers! ~ Christy Hui
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Watch a short clip as Christy takes you behind the scenes of 9 DRAGONS TEA.