For Yu Hui Tseng, drinking tea isn’t simply a daily habit or a cultural norm, but a spiritual practice at the very core of her being. A Chinese tea master, Tseng describes flavours with a rich, refined specificity. She finds aromas that evoke ‘an old trunk where clothes are stored with camphor’ or ‘bricks after a summer storm’. Each sip is imbued with a swirl of intermingling memories – of the life of the tea, and her own.
In Her Scents of Pu Er, the Paris-based filmmaker Anna-Claria Ostasenko Bogdanoff visits Maître Tseng in the tea cellar beneath her salon, Maison des Trois Thés (House of the Three Teas) in Paris. With the ageing vintages stacked ceiling-high behind her, Maître Tseng describes how each tea, like a person, expresses its own rich, evolving story, and how a once-unfashionable tea, pu er (or pu-erh), became her passion. Like her subject, Ostasenko Bogdanoff luxuriates in detail, assembling a beautifully shot sequence that weaves scenes from the elegantly adorned Maison des Trois Thés with images that conjure up the complex smells that Maître Tseng describes. The resulting film forms is its own intoxicating sensory experience, evoking the power of aromas and tastes to launch us into the past and to places as yet unknown.
Director: Anna-Claria Ostasenko Bogdanoff
Director of photography: Malte Daniel Hoekstra
Composer: Wenceslas Ostasenko