A Big Story Held In A Small Teacup
Hello, I’m Christy Hui, director, producer, and writer of 9 DRAGONS TEA. Welcome to my tea journey. In this article, I’d like to share why I spent the last two and a half years making the documentary film 9 DRAGONS TEA. Isn’t tea just a simple drink, after all?
Indeed, tea is a simple beverage with an extraordinary story. The ancient roots of Camellia sinensis 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 a cup of humanity?
Did you know that all the tea thrown into the Boston Harbor on Dec. 16, 1773, was from China? Over two-thirds, 234 chests were Black tea and came from the Wuyi Mountains, Fujian province of China.
Background Steeped In Tea
Growing up in China, I watched my father drink his Gong Fu Tea as a kid. I love tea. In my adult years, tea became an obsession. I devoured countless books and literature on tea and attended tea-tasting classes.
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 for Oolong 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.
Fast forward. A few years ago, at a party, a friend asked if I knew the story of the world’s most expensive tea. “A well-aged Pu-erh,” I replied, sure of myself. “Not even close,” my friend continued: “The most expensive tea was an Oolong tea sold at a Hong Kong auction in 2004 for a little over $1,100 a gram and only 20 grams were available. This Oolong tea is legendary in China; a mythical story has to do with some dragons.”
He got my full attention.
Secrets Buried In the Mountains
Months later, I found myself on a flight bound for Shanghai, and then a bullet train ride delivered me 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, the first of many, I learned that my favorite Dong Ding Oolong from Taiwan originated in the mountains of Wuyi!
I’ve been drinking Dong Ding Oolong for nearly 20 years. Yet I never knew of its origin. For the first time, I realize the tea realm is indeed filed with mysteries and untold stories. And one by one, more secrets would unfold as we dived more in-depth into the story.
Turns out Wuyishan is also the origin of Black tea, Li Shan Xiao Zhong, or Lapsang Souchong, aka Bohea.
Keep My Teapot Filled For 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 previously learned tea knowledge barely prepared me for the endless layers that I would find hidden inside the ancient karsts of Wuyishan.
There were many ups and downs as I tried to put together the missing pieces of tea’s ancient puzzle. There were layers of mysteries, crisscrossing thousands of years of Chinese tea culture, three centuries of tea trade with Europe, culminating in the unraveling of Robert Fortune’s great tea raid in China. The final act—how the world’s most potent plant-hunter pulled off smuggling the ancient tea secrets to India.
So two and a half years later, I have learned plenty about tea, yet there is a lot to be discovered. The tea realm is a deep subject. Here are my top reasons for making 9 Dragons Tea.
Five Reasons Why I Made This Film
First off, I want the film to illuminate tea’s long evolving culture in the motherland of China. Such a film does not exist, and we need it.
Second, this film fills the missing chapters on tea’s journey to the West and how it spread worldwide.
Although tea is the most popular drink after water globally, tea’s history and origins are often misunderstood. Even in some prestigious museums dedicated to telling tea’s story, I see facts and history blurred.
Third, I hope to spark a conversation on the importance of conducting more scientific research on tea, especially on how manufacturing impacts tea’s health benefits.
Fourth, I want to help raise awareness on protecting the environment and improving best practices to ensure our future generations can enjoy quality tea.
And finally, I hope the film inspires an appreciation and love for tea, for this beverage is extraordinary!~ Christy Hui
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Watch a short clip as Christy takes you behind the scenes of 9 DRAGONS TEA.