All in this Tea

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Les Blank, who famously chronicled the obsessions of director Werner Herzog in "Burden of Dreams," turns his attention to another compulsively driven figure in this documentary about tea importer David Lee Hoffman.

While "All in This Tea," co-directed with Gina Leibrecht, might provide more information about the beverage than most nonfanatics will be eager to absorb, its lightness of tone makes it go down fairly smoothly. The film is playing at New York's Cinema Village.

The Marin County, Calif.-based Hoffman developed his taste for rare teas during a lengthy sojourn in Nepal, where he spent time with Tibetan monks and even developed a friendship with the Dalai Lama. He soon made his way to China, where individual farmers grew and harvested fine teas that made U.S. products taste like bathwater.

Unfortunately, this natural style of growing inevitably succumbed to mass production and the use of chemical fertilizers; the film chronicles, among other things, Hoffman's attempts to convince Chinese officials not to completely abandon the traditional ways.

Featuring an amusing cameo by Herzog (he even suggests the film's title), "Tea" is a brisk historical treatise on one of the world's most popular products; a picturesque travelogue through the tea-growing regions of China; and an entertaining portrait of an eccentric figure whose singular passion proves infectious.

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