All In This Tea by Les Blank and Gina Leibrecht

All in this Tea is a new documentary about tea in China produced and directed by Les Blank and Gina Leibrecht. The film recently premiered at the San Francisco Film Festival.

Tea importer David Lee Hoffman travels throughout China “sometimes on foot” in search of handcrafted premium teas. Directors Les Blank and Gina Leibrecht follow this adventurer as he discovers exquisite teas and attempts to overcome bureaucratic obstacles to buying tea directly from farmers. Hoffman is most interested in teas that have been handpicked and carefully dried and heated to create the fragrance, color and taste unique to each tea-maker. As he admires a cup of tea, he describes the care that went into picking each tea bud, then mourns the tea-makers who may not be around much longer. China’s emphasis on factory-produced tea treated with chemical fertilizers is endangering the small farmer who has produced organic tea for generations. Hoffman’s goal is to open the Chinese tea market, support the small farmers and make high-quality handmade teas available outside of China. The film captures Hoffman’s boundless enthusiasm for the herbal essence as he sniffs large bags full of leaves, samples various flavors and discusses his love of superb tea. The filmmakers also show Hoffman in his West Marin home as he sips a cup with Werner Herzog, the subject of beloved documentarian Blank’s Burden of Dreams (SFIFF1995). The documentary also reveals every step of the tea-making process, from the picking of the buds to their slow heating over a wok. Tea experts discuss the history and tradition of tea drinking and its health benefits. After seeing this film, you’ll never drink a cup of tea the same way again.