San Francisco Chronicle Newspaper Article

By Jonathan Kauffman

David Lee Hoffman will not show me his tea cave.

The Lagunitas cave where Hoffman, owner of the Phoenix Collection, is aging tens of thousands of pounds of tea is well- known in the industry. “All in This Tea,” Les Blank’s 2007 documentary about Hoffman, pictures him loading boxes into it. Marin County, which has been suing Hoffman for more than a decade to bring his 2-acre estate to code, has listed the cave in its extensive complaints.

Yet Hoffman still treats it as a secret. “It’s not open to the public,” he tells me. That may be because most of the teas

stored at the Last Resort, his home and “ecological research center” in the Lagunitas hills, are puers, a genre of Chinese tea equivalent to cult Cabs or single- malt scotches. Hoffman is one of the most storied tea vendors in the United States, and his puers may be worth millions of dollars, albeit to a minuscule cadre of collectors.

As the Phoenix Collection spends down the tea Hoffman has accrued, these serious collectors have found their way to him. Sales, he says, are growing, as is Hoffman’s sense of urgency. Lyme disease, a recent diagnosis, has inflamed the 73- year-old’s joints and sapped his energy. At the same time, Marin County is fed up with Hoffman, who has built 36 structures on his property over the course of 45 years without county permits. Since 2015, the property has been under court-appointed receivership.

At some point, the tea party will end. Hoffman doesn’t know whether he’ll emerge with any money, a home or tea.

***

It takes determination — which, in the Internet age, means a phone call — to learn that the Phoenix Collection actually has an office in a strip mall down the hill from the Last Resort, and that it is open to the public on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

When I visit, then, the hubbub inside comes as a surprise. Six of the carved stools around the tea station have tiny white cups set before them. Two women in their 60s sip from theirs admiringly, watching their partners saw through a 6-foot-long cylinder wrapped in palm leaves and stuffed with Hunanese hua juan tea. A young woman in a peasant dress stops by to give Hoffman vinegar she has made from his apples. Another couple peruse a display of puer tea cakes on display in the shop’s Tea Museum, murmuring over the rounds, the bricks, even a wizened pomelo stuffed with fermented leaves.

Dressed in a blue shirt with Central American embroidery and his customary pageboy cap, Hoffman beams genially at the bustle, calling customers back to their cups each time his assistant, Nawang Tsomo, pours a new round. Part instructor, part host, he regularly darts outside to reposition a silvery solar cooker in the parking lot, returning with warm whole- wheat breads baked inside.

To find so many people interested in tasting esoteric teas is due in part to Hoffman’s proselytizing. When he started Silk Road Teas, his first tea company, 25 years ago, puer (sometimes spelled pu’erh, and pronounced POO-air) was even more rare in the United States than it is today.

Puer comes from Yunnan province in southwest China. In the 14th century, cosmopolitan tea culture in China began brewing loose-leaf tea, but remote Yunnan continued to press tea into cakes for easy transport.. By the 1970s, the tea was almost a curiosity, prized mainly by Yunnanese locals, Tibetans and Cantonese. The latter discovered that as the cakes traveled to southeast China’s sticky, sweltering climate and lingered in storerooms, their flavor became deep and robust, the ideal complement to dim sum and rich stews.

According to Jinghong Zhang, author of “Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic,” in 1973 one tea factory, recognizing Cantonese appetites for these earthy older teas, developed a method for fermenting tea leaves to replicate many of the effects of aging. Since then, puer has been divided into two classes, the artificially fermented or “cooked” (shu) and the “raw” (sheng).

Cooked puer, which brews up almost as dark and opaque as cocoa, can smell like wet leaves or moist humus, with a fruity sweetness and a viscous, satiny body.

Young raw puer resembles green tea, orchids and honeyed stone fruits floating over base notes of hay and toast, with a bitterness that nips the tongue. When it ages naturally, the leaves oxidize and microbial residents get to work.

As the 10-year mark approaches, the aromas of dried tobacco, camphor, dried fruit and incense overcome the flowers and vegetal notes. Every year adds to the tea’s smoothness and depth. The best puer can linger in the throat and flush the chest and forehead, occasionally to a psychotro- pic degree.

It is almost impossible to fall in love with aged puer without wanting to collect it.

***

In 1972, a 28-year-old Hoffman returned to the United States after almost a decade abroad, with the seed of his vast collection in his backpack: a mushroom-shaped cake of puer.

A former engineering student at San Jose State and son of a successful wallpaper manufacturer in Oakland, Hoffman had left the country just after Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. On his destination-less pilgrimage, he traveled to more than 100 countries, staying the longest in Nepal, Afghanistan and India, where he lived in Tibetan refugee settlements and fell in love with tea. “Most of the world are tea drinkers,” he recounts. Each time he says “tea,” his voice rises and falls, resonating like a chime.

He returned to the States to recuperate, wasted away after successive bouts of hepatitis and paratyphoid fever. Accompanying him home, too, was a sense of mission. Traveling, “I felt like I was just a sponge soaking everything up,” Hoffman says. “I came back here and wanted to let it all out.”

Soon afterward, he bought a 11⁄2-acre parcel in the steep Lagunitas hills for $38,000, adding another half-acre later. Like many of his back-to-the-land neighbors in West Marin, Hoffman set out to transform the property himself. Unlike them, he never stopped.

A chicken coop appeared, then became a bedroom. He razed a carport to construct an ornate tea room. The structures multiplied, whimsy inseparable from function: A retaining pond and well whose pump was housed in a mock tugboat. A “Solar Power Shower Tower.” An elaborate system for filtering rainwater, gray- water and blackwater through pools, worm beds and terraced organic gardens.

Hoffman attributes his 45-year fascination with organic farming, vermiculture and wastewater systems to his time in India and Nepal. Other fascinations developed over the years. “I’ve been cursed with too many passions in life,” he says. He planted 5 acres of heirloom wheat varieties and milled the grains himself. The garden plots filled with rare potato plants he imported from Peru. When he switched from wood-fired stove to solar cooker, he discovered that cooking in stone pots gave him the best flavor (“I hate plastic,” he adds, with malice), and so he flew to South Korea to commission pots of his own design.

A series of businesses helped fund the construction. Books. Rugs. He invented a method to clean ancient textiles for museums with sonic vibrations. Scouting tea was a hobby that grew into another enterprise.

“I made my first trip to China because I couldn’t find any good tea here,” he says. In the early 1990s, Hoffman sold the textile-cleaning equipment he’d invented and traveled even more widely — to Zhejiang province for flat-bladed Dragonwell, to Guandong for spindly, floral Phoenix Mountain oolongs. He began collecting puers in Hong Kong teashops and ended up visiting farmers in the mountains of Yunnan.

Despite the fact that he was not fluent in spoken or written Mandarin, each trip brought him to new regions and rarer teas. As the export market opened and his reputation grew, the Chinese feted him with television profiles and industry banquets.

Silk Road Teas, operating out of Hoffman’s property, primarily sold to retail brands like Republic of Tea, but also tapped into an audience willing to pay for premium Chinese teas. Sebastian Beckwith, co-founder of the New York City- based In Pursuit of Tea, says that where other companies would import a couple varieties of green tea, Hoffman would sell 30. He’d spend half an hour on the phone with a curious collector who’d end up spending $30. “David did more for education in the early (U.S.) market than anyone else,” Beckwith says.

Hoffman added to his construction projects a cave where he could age his teas without requiring electricity for air circulation or climate control. He excavated into the hills, pouring 100,000 pounds of concrete to line the walls. There, from the 1990s to the mid-2000s, Hoffman filed away teas by the tons — actually, tens of tons.

* * *

By 2002, Silk Road Teas was doing $1 million in gross annual sales despite the fact that, as Hoffman frequently jokes, he had no innate talent for business. When he decided that the company had grown too unwieldy, he sold it to Catherine and Ned Heagerty, the latter a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

The negotiations, Ned Heagerty says, took two years, partly because of Hoffman’s lack of business acumen. Yet the new owner adds that the long courtship, in which the two traveled to China numerous times, was “something wonderful.”

“The beauty was that we were drinking some of the best tea China had to offer,” Heagerty says. “Not only was it a great introduction to tea, my introduction started at the top.”

The sale, finalized in 2004, did not include the contents of the tea cave, which Hoffman attributes to Heagerty’s disinterest, and Heagerty to Hoffman’s unwillingness to part with his puers. Hoffman consulted for the new owner for a few years, but eventually parted ways.

Supposedly, he turned his focus back to the Last Resort. Instead, he returned to China to buy more tea. Hoffman says he saw the collection as an investment that could help sustain the Last Resort. “I’d rather have a good stash of puers than a stack of money,” he says. “At least with tea I can enjoy it and share it.”

In those days, puer was so cheap that he amassed 200,000 pounds of it. Many of the teas he bought, like the baskets and logs on display at the Tea Museum, were heicha, or non-Yunnanese fermented “dark teas,” which were little known even in China.

Around 2010, Hoffman started the Phoenix Collection, competing directly against the company he’d sold just six years before.

***

In those short few years, the Chinese puer market had changed.

In 2006 and 2007, a frenzy of speculation on puer cakes gripped China, akin to the 17th century Dutch tulip craze. Farmers picked every bud that sprouted, trying to meet the demand. Fakeries proliferated. Investors tracked the skyrocketing price of their holdings in the puer press. As Jing- hong Zhang chronicled, unpressed tea from Yiwu, one of the most famous mountains, shot up from 50 to 120 Chinese yuan per kilo in 2005 to over 400 yuan ($92) in 2007. A year later, the market collapsed, and the price dropped by three-quarters.

The boom and bust, however ruinous to speculators, signaled to all of China the value that Cantonese and Taiwanese collectors had long placed on aged puer. Prices slowly rebounded, eventually surpassing the heights of the boom. Merchants now compete for the best leaves, valuing those from older, wilder trees over Communist-era plantations. As incomes in China have risen, so, too, has the Chinese market for high-end teas. “The domestic market has become my biggest competitor,” Heagerty says.

Since the boom, too, an American community of puer collectors has coalesced. “The common trajectory that people go through with tea drinking is they start on the lighter end, and then they get to dark- roasted oolongs,” says Max Falkowitz, a writer and editor at Saveur magazine. “As they’re drinking more with their bodies and appreciating the somatic and emotional effects of tea, that’s where puer starts to interest them.”

Americans, Brits, Singaporeans and Europeans — many of them in their 20s and early 30s — now discuss tea on English-language websites like Steepster as well as in Facebook groups, private Slack channels and Reddit boards. Falkowitz characterizes the online puer community as “fractious, competitive and often pedantic, but at the same time, really generous with their knowledge and experience and generous with their tea.”

A new generation of tea producers and vendors, many based in China, has arisen to supply this market, selling through their own websites or via eBay. Online, specifics are everything: which mountain a tea comes from, whether the trees came from a plantation or a semi-wild arbor, even the name of the farmer. In the case of older puers, vendors may specify whether the tea was stored in dry or humid conditions, considering how significant the effect humidity has on the taste of aged puers.

Hoffman professes ignorance of the online community, and for the most part, they ignore him, too.

The Phoenix Collection accepts orders only via telephone, but the real disconnect is in its approach to tea. Hoffman says, “You should never buy a tea you haven’t tasted.” The online community can’t visit Lagunitas.

The lack of specifics in his catalog is befuddling. Hoffman makes regular forays into the cave, excavates another haul, then figures out what he’s discovered. He doesn’t read much Chinese, so he briefly names and dates the teas based on the sketchy information he remembers about their provenance, trusting in his palate. (His palate, several people in the industry confirm, is excellent.) There is no Chinese equivalent to Hoffman’s Northern Californian tea cave, either, so only those who taste his teas in person can verify whether they are aging well.

At the same time, the Phoenix Collection’s mailing list has grown to 1,000. Chinese merchants have sniffed out his collection, too. They fly to the Bay Area to snap up choice older vintages, selling them to wealthy collectors back home for thousands of dollars.

***

When I visit the Last Resort for a tour, Hoffman won’t even point out where the tea cave is.

Instead, we sit on a terrace looking over his property and the wooded valley below. A breeze through the Lagunitas hills directs the wind chimes in a fairy-bell cantata. Hummingbirds buzz our ears. We can feel the vibration of their wings.

After 45 years of construction, the Last Resort resembles a village in the Himalayas, or perhaps the set of “Game of Thrones” a few weeks before filming. Buildings push against one another as if they are huddling for warmth, linked by walkways and steps that require caution to navigate. Pot shards, boards and doll heads are heaped in random corners. The canted, tiled roof of Hoffman’s unfinished magnum opus, his tea room, may dominate the view, but it’s easy to get distracted by other sights. A boat. A baby bulldozer. The Grand Pissoir, his compostable toilet, to which the county of Marin particularly objects.

Court records show that the county issued its first stop-work order in 1988. The county issued new violations in 1999, then again in 2000, 2001, 2007, 2009 and 2011.

Hoffman waved them all off. “Back then there were people in the county that loved my place,” he says. He claims when he asked the senior building inspector what he needed to do to bring the property into compliance, the guy winked and told him to get out of there.

As Hoffman tells of his fight with Marin County, a trickster theme keeps bubbling up — the wily rascal who has spent his life flouting authority in Afghanistan, China and Lagunitas. The inventor as stubborn iconoclast. The visionary, forging ahead of thelaw.

Those old Marin bureaucrats have all retired. Now, according to county counsel Bryan Case, the county just wants Hoffman to make his property safe.

The violations aren’t limited to bad wiring or overly steep steps. According to a December 2016 evaluation that building forensics consultant LaCroix Davis prepared on the Last Resort, the self-taught builder has constructed houses that might collapse in an earthquake and wells that might drown someone who accidentally falls in. Environmental health inspectors have also expressed concern that Hoffman’s blackwater system would contaminate a nearby watercourse and the San Geronimo Creek.

After the county court ordered Hoffman off the property in 2012 and levied $226,672 in fees — he refused to pay, he kept building — it finally appointed a receiver in 2015.

The receiver, Eric Beatty, is charged with bringing the property up to compliance, using its value to pay all fees and expenses. Some structures may need to be demolished for safety.

Hoffman claims that, with interest included, the county wants him to pay a half- million dollars and worries it could easily acquire the money by razing the land and selling it, bare. Beatty asserts that he is proceeding slowly with the evaluation and remediation. He has let Hoffman live on the property, only insisted the Phoenix Collection move off-site — hence the shop and Tea Museum down the hill.

In the meantime, hundreds of Hoffman’s supporters and neighbors have rallied around his eccentric estate.
They’ve filed petitions, met with county supervisors and appealed to the county architectural commission, updating supporters through a website, thelastresortlagunitas.org. They are trying to secure historic preservation status, although the property is six years short of the required 50-year mark. Another trick for the trickster.

Jo Farb Hernandez, executive director of Spaces, has joined their crusade. Spaces is a nonprofit that advocates for “folk art environments” like the Watts Towers in Los Angeles or Nitt Witt Ridge in Cambria (San Luis Obispo County). The Last Resort, she argues, doesn’t just deserve to be preserved for its cultural and artistic merit. She also sees great value in Hoffman’s model of sustainability. “Given the water issues that we have in California, people have to pay attention to forward-thinkers. And forward- thinkers are often breaking the rules.”

Hoffman says that love for the planet fuels his passion for the Last Resort and his willingness to flout the law. “As much as the county is condemning my work, the fact is, (these systems) work!” he says. “I can demonstrate the usefulness of this. And it’s easily adaptable to large-scale environments.”

After fighting the county for a decade now, however, he’s exhausted. Lyme disease has shrunk his ambitions even further. “My goal is to sell off all the tea and then close the doors,” he says, staving off demolitions and evictions long enough to do it.

He has 100,000 pounds to go.

Phoenix Collection Tea Museum, 7282 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Suite 1, Lagunitas; (415) 488-9017, thephoenixcollection.com.

Read the entire article here

The Californian king of pu’er tea

David Lee Hoffman is an American man who popularized pu’er tea (普洱茶 pǔ’ěr chá) in the U.S., and is even credited by many with inspiring a cult-like devotion to the fermented tea variety amongst tea connoisseurs in China itself. The San Francisco Chronicle has published a profile of Hoffman that tells the story of his rise to pu’er fame, his extraordinary collection of tea, and the threats he faces from the Marin County government for code violations on the property where he stores his tea in a cave.

By Jeremy Goldkorn
Jeremy Goldkorn is co-founder of the Sinica Podcast and currently edits SupChina and its daily newsletter

Point Reyes Light Newspaper Article

VALLEY: David Lee Hoffman’s property in Lagunitas, two acres of technical innovation and architectural whim, has been placed under the control of a court-appointed receiver who is charged with deciding the fate of its dozens of structures.

Article “Tea Purveyor Faces New Twists, Mounting Bills” published on 01/05/2017 in the Point Reyes Light about David’s current situation.

http://www.ptreyeslight.com/article/tea-purveyor-faces-new-twists-mounting-bills

September Newsletter

September, 2016

Dear Friends,

We’re still here! And, at least for the time being, it’s business as usual. The new tea harvests are all in and Jeannie is ready to take your order.

Just as in everything else in life, there’s good news and bad news. Since our last newsletter was over three years ago, there’s a lot to report.

Many of you have heard about my travails with the County of Marin (www.thelastresortlagunitas.org). Forty-three years ago I began a project to create a living model of sustainability. In that I have been wildly successful.

With a big help from earthworms and vermicomposting, I can grow my own food, enjoy wonderfully healthy and delicious meals and have tasty fruit throughout the year (and still have plenty to share with friends and neighbors!). It is fertilized exclusively from local inputs and watered by stored rainwater and greywater. My use of municipal water from MMWD is a fraction of county averages. Food is cooked from current sunlight, both direct and stored. I live in comfort, create almost zero waste, and have successfully demonstrated viable alternatives to archaic and obsolete septic tanks. My unique vermicomposting, grey- and -black water systems have been inspected and evaluated by two prestigious environmental engineering firms, ENGEO and Questa Engineering. They both wrote up favorable reports.

I’ve turned trees into timber, built with stone, earth, and metal by the labor and sweat of my own hands. The byproduct of all my work has been a magical transformation, regeneration, and proliferation of life in the environment around me. Frogs, snakes, lizards, birds, bats, even Great Blue Herons, have all become frequent visitors. It’s always a pleasure to observe the ever-changing sights, sounds, and fragrances. And to enjoy a nice cup of tea…

The Good News

We have opened a showroom and soon to be The Tea Museum right here in downtown Lagunitas.  Our first exhibit will be,

Tea & Bamboo:

Rare Collection of Bamboo Fragrance Pu-erhs & Ceramic Bamboo Teapots.

The collecting of Bamboo Fragrance Pu-erhs has been a personal interest of mine for more than a quarter of a century and I think I’ve amassed a very exciting selection. The bamboo Yixing teapots complement the tea and are stunning by themselves. They show the creative mastery from many treasured artists. The best part is you will have the opportunity to taste each one of the twenty-five Bamboo Fragrance Pu-erhs, some dating back to the 1980’s, and have a chance to take some home. Stay tuned for the opening date.

In the meantime, please drop by our show and tasting room and try some of our rare, collectable, and Original Lagunitas Cave-aged Tea. Taste before you buy is always the best way to purchase tea. Currently we’re open only on Saturdays between 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. All other times are by appointment. In case we still don’t have signage up by the time you receive this newsletter, we’re easy to find. We’re right between the Lagunitas grocery store and Arti’s Indian restaurant, both nice places to have good food. You can order some up and sit at our outdoor table to enjoy.  Our address: 7282 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Suite 1, Lagunitas, California, 94938.

This is a good time to purchase one of our Preparation Tables. Choose from more than 30 styles in bamboo, wood, and stone. You can see some of them on our website. If you enjoy Gongfu style of tea preparation (method of using lots of leaf in a gaiwan or small tea pot with short, multiple infusions) or simply want to expand your tea experience, come and check out our selection. We’re downsizing our warehousing in San Rafael and reducing our inventory. We’re offering a half-off, 50% discount, on our entire inventory of Preparation Tables if picked up in Lagunitas. This is all old stock merchandise and we will not be importing them again. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. If we have to pack and mail to you we can only offer a 20% discount but our $10 flat rate shipping will save you on shipping costs. If you purchase a Preparation Table, we can also give you a 20% discount on any tea accessory with your order: scales, cups, gaiwans, serving pitchers, strainers, etc. Everything you would need to prepare and serve tea like a pro!

But what good is having nice tea gear without some special tea leaves to brew? We can definitely help with that.

Pu-erh drinkers will be pleased to hear about some of the recent teas I’ve been pulling out of the cave. Two of them have become a couple of my favorites and I’m drinking a lot of them these days. The first is No. 5420 Menghai Shou Brick from the Langhe Tea Factory. It weighs 250 grams and the date of production was May 11, 1999, pressed from leaves picked in 1996 from Nannuo Mountain. This factory has a reputation for some of the best ripe/cooked pu-erhs in Yunnan and this brick is an excellent example of such. The price is $80 per brick. This tea has become rare and collectable in China. The last I heard was these bricks were selling for ¥999 (about US$150) in Guangzhou which is almost double from our price. If you want it packed in an attractive hinged and latched hardwood box (No. 8506) we’ll include one for an additional $25.

My other pu-erh recommendation is for our raw (sheng) cake, No. 5122 Yiwu Mountain Old Tree Wild Beencha. This tea is now selling for $126 in China. Our price is $100 / cake. We can include a hinged hardwood box (No. 8505) for an additional $30. This is a full-size 357-gram cake from the Xinghai Tea Factory and was produced in 2002. Located next to the Langhe Tea Factory in Menghai Town, the Xinghai Tea Factory was started by a group of engineers and technicians who left the state-run CNNP Menghai Tea Factory to start their own business. This was their first year of production. They had collected tea leaves from several mountains. I choose Yiwu after tasting their choices. It was good back then. It’s now been cave-aged to perfection here in Lagunitas for thirteen years! But don’t just trust my palate – you can purchase a sample of either one to try yourself for five dollars (after meeting our minimum order of fifty dollars).

The Not-so-good News

My life’s work of 43 years was all constructed without any building permits. Now the County wants to punish me. Their position has been for me to get a demolition permit, level the property, pay the $350,000 in fines, penalties, court costs, and County hours and then I can apply for a building permit. I declined their offer.  In spite of documented testimony from three historic experts and contrary to what other California communities have done with historic properties, the County decided to require an impossible 100% code compliance.

The Judge has now turned my property over to a “Receiver” who has the power and authority to bring the property into compliance by whatever means necessary. This includes demolition as an option for structures that can’t be made to conform (all?).

I’m always eager for good news that might give cause for optimism. So it was, when after touring my property, all five members of Marin County’s own Architectural Commission voted unanimously to “approve a designation of architectural significance for the site in its totality, including all 36 structures, to preserve its intrinsic artistic value as a site of local importance to the history and culture of unincorporated Marin County”. This would invoke the State Historic Building Code, give weight to the State Historic Landmark Application under way and would keep the County’s bulldozers at bay. But the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing. When the Receiver caught wind of this, he invalidated the application (as he is now in control of the property) as this had proceeded without his authorization.

Wouldn’t this be a good time for another cup of tea?

We are presently charcoal firing some very special Phoenix Mountain Oolongs using traditional bamboo ovens.  These teas will be sold under No. 3205 Phoenix Mountain Oolong, Private Reserve.  Please call for price and availability.

Or how about a nice fresh green? No. 2201 Dragon Well, the traditional pan-fired by hand green tea is very good this year and the price is lowered to just $20 / .25 lb bag. If you prefer a green tea in an oven-roasted, more “bakey” style, try No. 2802 Meizhan Green for $25 / .25lb bag.

Feel free to give us a call if you have any tea questions or just want to say hello.

Our office hours are: Monday – Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tel: 415 488-9017

The Bad News

All this action the County has taken against me has cost a lot of money in which I’m expected to pay. I recently received another bill from the Receiver that was more than $100,000. This amount requested is just an advance for the Receiver to begin his work. He went to the Judge, got his signature, and proceeded with a lien on the property with Bank of America so he can get paid now and later for work done in the future.

Eventually, the bank will have to sell the property to recoup their money. My attorney says the bank won’t care about the 36 structures, which will be seen as a liability. “It’s in the bank’s interest, with land prices what they are today, to simply level the property and sell the land to a developer”. I’m reminded of the words by Woody Guthrie,

“some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen”.

Enough with the bad news. There are still a few more good things to report.

The black tea harvests were very, very good this year. We’re offering three special ones grouped together as the Triple Gem Black, Cat. No. 9400. This will consist of a quarter-pound each of No. 4503 Qi Lan Black @ $30, No. 4507 Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong @ $30, & No. 4804 Jin Jun Mei @ $40. Ask for the Triple Gem Black and we’ll give you a 20% discount on all three teas. This selection is best consumed straight. If you’re a milk tea drinker, I suggest you go with No. 4105 Guizhou Black @ $20, No. 4301 Yunnan Gold @ $20, No. 4601 Golden Monkey @ $20, or (Jeannie’s favorite) No. 4401 Golden Bi Luo @ $30.

The future of The Phoenix Collection, The Last Resort, and my pu-erh tea repository remains uncertain, as it seems apparent my time here will be limited.

The County has only recently discovered the existence of my pu-erh cave. I wouldn’t allow them inside without a court order (but now they have one). It doesn’t matter that this may be the only pu-erh cave in North America (the Fort Knox of the pu-erh world?). Nevertheless, the cave was constructed without a permit, as was everything else here, and therefore must be torn down! If you’re interested in a quantity purchase of some pu-erh tea for investment, aging, or just to insure a supply for your future, please give me a call and we can talk.

A very big thank you to everyone who signed the petition and wrote letters of support. Over 1800 signatures and letters from the community and friends were passed on to our Supervisor Steve Kinsey, including an application for Historic Landmark Status submitted by City Planner John Torrey and his team.

The hopes for a compromise were high especially for the Historic Landmark Status which would preserve the unique historical structures which are a piece of Marin’s living history and which need to be preserved for future generations to enjoy and find inspiration. Marin County aspires to be the greenest in the country and they have a property that is a living testament to this goal. The county’s actions will speak to their legacy.

Our planet is in crisis, and the problems will not be resolved through anger, fear, and outdated methods. To that end, I’ve tried to do my part and dedicated my life to help envision and create positive solutions. We can’t change the past nor predict the future, but we do have the present to live the changes we want to see in the world. We can all do our part, as best as we can, and live with the hope that the sum of all our efforts will tilt the scales to benefit future generations.

At the end, life is short, come friend – let us drink some tea and just be.

David Lee Hoffman, CDO

More Letters of Support

A letter in support of David Lee Hoffman's 'Last Resort' efforts.

A preview of the letters inside this PDF.

Click here to open the PDF containing these Letters of Support.

David and his grandson Theo.

“Theo reads about his grandfather’s ordeal with the County in the Saturday edition of the Marin Independent Journal, October 3, 2015″

David Lee Hoffman and his grandson.

David Lee Hoffman and his grandson, Theo.

Update October 2, 2015

Update October 2, 2015


It was a slam dunk for the County of Marin. Over in ten minutes. I wasn’t questioned nor allowed to speak or even able to present an additional 700 new signatures from the online petition just received this past week calling for a cooperative plan.

scales_justice

The County appointed Receiver was approved by the Judge and has officially taken over the control of my property. What that specifically means, we will have to see. My attorney, Paul Smith, did get some of the original language of the court order changed to soften the likelihood of the receiver taking my house keys and throwing me off my property.

So for now, I’m still here. We’ll keep you posted as events unfold…

In any case, I am so touched and appreciative of the overwhelming response in support of The Last Resort. Thank you thank you thank you! This in itself gives me hope for the future. Many of you have taken the time and energy to write such beautiful letters. We will begin putting some of these up on the website (after first receiving the author’s permission) sometime next week.

With deep gratitude,
David

P.S. I only learned yesterday that it was our Supervisor Steve Kinsey who was pushing for a County appointed receiver to take over my property. He said the “receiver being proposed will help, not hurt, David”. Hmmmm.

If you want to express your views to Kinsey, here’s his email address:
SKinsey@marincounty.org

County of Marin vs. David Lee Hoffman

County of Marin vs. David Lee Hoffman
County legal documents have now exceeded 12 inches in height and are rapidly increasing. Our county tax dollars hard at work!


David Lee Hoffman with assistant June McCrory. Photo by A.J. Marson.

David Lee Hoffman with assistant June McCrory. Photo by A.J. Marson.

In just two days, Friday, October 2nd, I will go in front of Honorable Judge Paul M. Haakenson to hear how I will be punished for building 42 years without a permit. If you care about my life’s work, and have not already signed our online petition, your signature will be greatly appreciated.

Several of you have asked about attending the hearing. While it probably won’t help my case, it will certainly boost my spirit to see you there. Here is the official court case name and number:

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, ET AL. V. DAVID HOFFMAN, ET AL. MARIN COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT CASE NO. CIV 1502647.

Friday, October 2nd at 9am, Department E at the Superior Court of California County of Marin.

We will do another mailing shortly after the judge has made his decision.

Thank you all so much for your letters of support, donations, good thoughts and for signing our petition.

David

IMPORTANT PERSONAL REQUEST FROM DAVID LEE HOFFMAN

IMPORTANT PERSONAL REQUEST FROM DAVID LEE HOFFMAN


To my dear and valued customers:

My effort to create a working model of eco-sustainability is now facing demolition (including the pu-erh caves). As many of you already know, the control of my home and property is about to be taken over by a court appointed receiver.

The court hearing is in San Rafael on Friday, October 2, 2015. The judge will determine a course of action to punish me for building forty-two years without a permit. Current fines are in excess of $350,000. 00, the majority which have already been added to my property tax bill. Thus, the future of The Phoenix Collection is very much uncertain.

Please take a moment to kindly sign the petition as soon as possible. If you’re inspired and have the time, please write a letter to Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey (and send a copy to me, please). The petition and letters of support will be submitted to the court on October 2, 2015.

If you would like to receive future updates about this issue, please sign up for the mailing list.

Your support is much appreciated!

Thanks as always,
David Lee Hoffman

 

This issue is much larger than me losing my home: Update – 9.10.15

County poised to assign receiver to take control of The Last Resort

The County has filed a lawsuit to appoint a receiver to take control of The Last Resort. The hearing will be on Friday, October 2, 2015 at 9:00am, in front of Hon. Judge Paul M. Haakenson, Marin County Superior Court.

We are so grateful that many of you have already signed the petition and written letters of support. Certainly if you are inspired to write another letter, this would be a good time.

Send letters ℅:
David Lee Hoffman
P.O. Box 10, Lagunitas,CA
94938

or by email to

TheLastResortLagunitas@gmail.com

Our attorney, Paul Smith, will be submitting your letters along with the previous petition signed by 1,000 supporters to the judge.

Additionally, Paul will present Adam Posard, an expert architect and builder as my choice for an alternative to the court-appointed receiver. The county’s receiver will likely work to bring the property up to code as quickly as possible, by destruction and removal of all that does not comply to all codes [the entire property?].

Adam, on the other hand, will not be so trigger-happy; he will focus on health and safety, working alongside expert engineers to preserve the artistic integrity of the entire site and its fully functioning zero-waste systems.

Paul Smith will continue to work with the county to find a resolution to reduce their fines and penalties, which now exceed $350,000, back to the original offer of $60,000, which I have already accepted.

This issue is much larger than me losing my home.

At its heart, the solution to the county’s problem is the recognition of the view held by historic experts: that The Last Resort Lagunitas is an important folk art environment. The sanctioning of new, environmentally friendly water recycling systems is also much needed.

Supporting The Last Resort Lagunitas is a small and important step in the direction of a sustainable future.

David Lee Hoffman

Lagunitas local John Torrey’s LETTER TO THE EDITOR

LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Point Reyes Light, August 27, 2015
Hoffman’s site is historic


Regarding the “Tea Purveyor” article, the piece makes no mention of the legal framework behind historic documentation which is to protect the property from demolition acknowledging the site’s historic status protection from CEQA. A report documenting the property’s potential as County historic landmark was provided to Supervisor Kinsey almost 3 years ago.

I put it together. Kinsey simply sat on it.

The County needs a demolition permit in order to proceed with any destruction of the property. Even if the county waives the need for a demolition permit they are still liable to a CEQA challenge if there is any threat to potential historic structures on the property.

The property in its entirety is, like Watts Tower, a folk art environment and is, according to three historic experts, protected by two criteria of the California Register of Historical Resources. It should be noted that if the property is not listed but nevertheless meets the criteria specified in California Public Resources Code section 5024.1 (defining eligibility for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources), then it is presumed to be “historically significant.”

Nor did the article make any mention of perhaps the most egregious example of local political betrayal. A 1,000 person petition was provided to Kinsey along with the historic report. Speaking for the petitioners, I can state unequivocally that the petition makes clear that San Geronimo Valley residents want a cooperative plan developed to save the property. Kinsey never even acknowledged the petition. Again, he just sat on it. He doesn’t get it. We don’t work for him. He works for us. We’re the boss, not him. Obviously, ignoring petitions sets a very dangerous precedent for the entire county.

Kinsey has said many times to me and others that “he has always wanted to save Hoffman’s property.” Yet like a lot of politicians he has no intention of saving the property at all. He simply says things like that to make himself feel good. It’s a pure giveaway line. David, his attorney Paul Smith and I have worked tirelessly to come up with the basics of a cooperative plan to be developed in conjunction with the County to save the property based on the following:

Removal of tea from the site. Presentation to the County of an independent hydrology report documenting the site’s grey- water, blackwater, and drainage systems. A revision to the financial obligations of the property that will provide for necessary future maintenance of the property and payment of fines while not at the same time creating unsustainable debt. A third party professional agreeable to the County to act as an alternate to the receiver for the property designated by the County. This person would have the ability to evaluate and execute necessary health and safety upgrades on the property. Recognition of the property as an historic resource in accordance with criteria of the California Register of Historical Resources.

Will the County meet with us or will they simply ignore Valley residents and the state’s environmental law? Hopefully the Point Reyes Light will pursue this issue head on in the true spirit of investigative journalism and its Pulitzer Prize reputation.


John Torrey
Lagunitas