I just watched Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon. Quite entertaining for what it is- Tsui Hark’s stylish action sequence, a charismatic as always Feng Shaofeng, Angelababy who is always pleasing on the eyes plus Chen Kun’s quirky but entertaining cameo.
But anyway, anything on this blog has something to do with tea, no matter how remote the link may be and here goes.
In the movie- without giving away any of the plot, a tea house is mentioned- Qing Xin Cha Fang- which produces a tribute tea for the royal family known as “queshe” (雀舌) or sparrow’s tongue.
Nothing much there, if you’re just a casual tea drinker. Of course being a tea nerd, my sensors go up the moment there is any tea involved.
Since it is just a movie and it has nothing to do outright with tea, I can go ahead and criticize its lack of research :) No harm done to them anyway, no one would demand a refund or stop watching because of these inaccuracies.
1) Tribute tea
Everything is claimed to be tribute tea, even today. So this is not surprising.
Of course, Detective Dee is set in the rule of Empress Wu Zetian & Emperor Tang Gaozhong which dates it from 655-683 AD.
According to Lu Yu’s Cha Jing- Classics of Tea- tribute tea about 100 years later was in the form of tribute cakes- similar to our Puer cakes today.
Not loose leaf tea which is what Queshe is. Loose leaf tea existed then but it was considered coarse tea and for the lower classes, definitely not for royalty.
2) Method of Production
Of course they didn’t show the method of production but on film a wok similar to the above appeared.
Now the tea house must be really avant garde because chaoqing was believed to have started sometime in the 13th to 14th century, not the 7th century.
At that time, the tea leaves were steamed, much like Japanese green tea today. Only centuries later did they discover that chaoqing or pan-firing makes the leaves more fragrant.
Queshe means ‘sparrow’s tongue’ which is used to denote tea leaves made from 1 bud to 2 leaves picking requirement.
The tea in the movie though was shown to be similar to a tuocha, not a queshe.
Of course take nothing away from the movie, it is pretty enjoyable and to be fair it is not the first to have poorly researched tea related scenes.