The Tea Explorer – Documentary Film

Movie Trailer here: The Tea Explorer

The last month and a bit have been spent contentedly and sometimes manically slurping back tea, humping it over snow passes and sitting with the treasured elders who still recall the days when tea (and salt, wool, and so many other commodities) travelled by caravan.

Churned Tibetan tea: butter, salt, stewed tea leaves all coerced into a potent 'meal'.

Churned Tibetan tea: butter, salt, stewed tea leaves all coerced into a potent ‘meal’.

Award-Winning filmmaker Andrew Gregg of 90th Parallel, the incomparable and newly tea-addicted Michael Josselyn and I – after years of plotting and preparing – embarked on a journey to create a film (and experience) a tribute to tea, the tea routes through the sky, and to the spirit of the people who were a part of the 13-Centuries of unending tea trade into the Himalayas.

A Hani elder from southern Yunnan hand-makes a tea basket.

A Hani elder from southern Yunnan hand-makes a tea basket.

The film, The Tea Explorer is set for a ‘fluid’ release in 2016. During a reconnaissance trip in 2014, Andrew looked incredulous at many points, remarking how “this whole part of the world was driven by tea”…and it was and still is to a great degree.

The crew atop Shola Pass. Route of Pilgrims, brigands, traders, and migrants, the Tea Horse Road pre-dates the Silk Road and was an entirely 'Asian' adventure.

The crew atop Shola Pass. Route of Pilgrims, brigands, traders, and migrants, the Tea Horse Road pre-dates the Silk Road and was an entirely ‘Asian’ adventure.

Sub-tropic tea forests of southern Yunnan, which have long provided the sumptuous leaves for caravans to export, gave way to rampant tea-high’s of buzzing sweats, which in turn gave way to sacred white snow passes in the sky.

Along for our journey, Sonam: mountain goat, comedian, and channeling conduit for old stuff.

Along for our journey, Sonam: mountain goat, comedian, and channeling conduit for old stuff.

It has led us through the Himalayas, down the Kali Gandaki valley of Mustang to here, the old trade capital of Kathmandu. Regardless of the petrol embargo, and the still tenuous tectonic situation, the city (and the country) still hums with energy and light.

Andrew (left) and Mike at peace (and tea) in Lo Manthang, Upper Mustang, Nepal.

Andrew (left) and Mike at peace (and tea) in Lo Manthang, Upper Mustang, Nepal.

“Tea was everything and everywhere and without it the Himalayas wouldn’t be what they are”, said Himalayan hard-man, scribe and trader Tenzin. I would only expand that Asia wouldn’t be what it is either without the unending flow of the leaf.

It was through valleys like the epic Gali Kandaki valley that tea, salt and wool caravans travelled

It was through valleys like the epic Kali Gandaki in Upper Mustang that tea, salt and wool caravans travelled

Along the way, we were gifted with company and words of old mountain hands Sonam Gelek and Dakpa Kelden, tea dealer to my leafy addiction Mei, and to the bulletproof legend of trade Konga Dakpa. Fuelled by tea, the journey has briefly given a flicker of life to the ancient Himalayan corridors and ushered in some deserved credit for being one of the great adventures of time.

Trade route, pilgrimage path, migration highway and eternal trail through the sky, the Tea Horse Road predates the Silk Road

Trade route, pilgrimage path, migration highway and eternal trail through the sky, the Tea Horse Road predated the Silk Road

Updates and sips to be shared.

Nothing is quite complete with a few sips. Photo courtesy of Andrew Gregg.

Nothing is quite complete without a few sips. Photo courtesy of Andrew Gregg.

About JeffFuchs

Bio Having lived for most of the past decade in Asia, Fuchs’ work has centered on indigenous mountain cultures, oral histories with an obsessive interest in tea. His photos and stories have appeared on three continents in award-winning publications Kyoto Journal, TRVL, and Outpost Magazine, as well as The Spanish Expedition Society, The Earth, Silkroad Foundation, The China Post Newspaper, The Toronto Star, The South China Morning Post and Traveler amongst others. Various pieces of his work are part of private collections in Europe, North America and Asia and he serves as the Asian Editor at Large for Canada’s award-winning Outpost magazine. Fuchs is the Wild China Explorer of the Year for 2011 for sustainable exploration of the Himalayan Trade Routes. He recently completed a month long expedition a previously undocumented ancient nomadic salt route at 4,000 metres becoming the first westerner to travel the Tsa’lam ‘salt road’ through Qinghai. Fuchs has written on indigenous perspectives for UNESCO, and has having consulted for National Geographic. Fuchs is a member of the fabled Explorers Club, which supports sustainable exploration and research. Jeff has worked with schools and universities, giving talks on both the importance of oral traditions, tea and mountain cultures. He has spoken to the prestigious Spanish Geographic Society in Madrid on culture and trade through the Himalayas and his sold out talk at the Museum of Nature in Canada focused on the enduring importance of oral narratives and the Himalayan trade routes. His recently released book ‘The Ancient Tea Horse Road’ (Penguin-Viking Publishers) details his 8-month groundbreaking journey traveling and chronicling one of the world’s great trade routes, The Tea Horse Road. Fuchs is the first westerner to have completed the entire route stretching almost six thousand kilometers through the Himalayas a dozen cultures. He makes his home in ‘Shangrila’, northwestern Yunnan upon the eastern extension of the Himalayan range where tea and mountains abound; and where he leads expeditions the award winning ‘Tea Horse Road Journey’ with Wild China along portions of the Ancient Tea Horse Road. To keep fueled up for life Fuchs co-founded JalamTeas which keeps him deep in the green while high in the hills.
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3 Responses to The Tea Explorer – Documentary Film

  1. Peter says:

    Sounds like it will be a fascinating and delightful film to see. Any idea when it will be released? Thanks.

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