After learning that I write posts for T Ching, my cousin Andrea recently sent me a copy of Tea Fight!, a 2008 movie first released in Japan. Andrea told me not to have high expectations for the film, and just as her informal review revealed, the storyline is mediocre and inconsequential, despite a central idea that is somewhat novel. In ancient China, in order to obtain the title of best tea producer, the clan of the Male Black Golden Tea, which not only energizes those who partake of it, but also makes them belligerent, feuds with the clan of the Female Black Golden Tea, which has a notably calming effect on those who drink it. Before all of the Female Black Golden Tea crop is destroyed by the Male Black Golden Tea clan in a decisive clash, a seedling is opportunely preserved by a Japanese tea master, and a child who drinks a mixture of the two teas is transformed into a dragon, symbolizing immortality and omnipotence. The legend continues into modern times when the Female Black Golden Tea plant is re-discovered in Japan, and descendants of the two clans re-encounter one another in Taiwan. The story concludes with reconciliation and a juvenile love affair. In a forced attempt to be philosophical, the screenwriters ask these questions in the movie: Why do human beings drink tea? And why do only human beings drink tea?
Another Asian tea drama titled Eight Tael Gold also depicts conflicts caused by fierce competition in the marketplace. (“Tael” is a unit in the Asian weight system. “Eight Tael Gold” is the name of a fictional tea.) The conspiracy to eliminate the No. 1 tea master, who pan-fries tea leaves in a big wok with his two hands, turns murderous. Babies are switched at birth. Opium is illegally traded to generate fortune. Clearly some of the subplots are excessively dramatic.
To lure viewers, at least in Asia, even tea cinema is action packed.