David Lee Hoffman
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David Lee Hoffman is an American tea importer and inventor who founded and directs The Last Resort, an ecology research center, and The Phoenix Collection, an archive of fine teas.
Hoffman is known in the tea world for introducing and popularizing fine handcrafted artisanal teas to the West. He began importing pu'erh teas from Nepal in the early 1970s, and eventually ventured into remote regions in China to seek out the world's finest rare organic and wild pure leaf teas. Hoffman's teas eventually gained wide popularity in the US, the Americas, and Europe. He became known in China as "the American Pu-erh Tea King", and is considered a leading authority on pu-erh's. Hoffman has named several fine teas including Drum Mountain Clouds and Mist, Tongyu Mountain Green, and Camel's Breath. He also was the first importer of flowering ("blossoming") tea from China. He is the subject of filmmaker Les Blank and Gina Leibrecht's 2007 documentary All In This Tea. Hoffman sold his Silk Road Tea company in 2004 and now runs The Phoenix Collection.
Hoffman developed his interest in teas during his extensive world travels to over 100 countries. He was amongst the first Americans to visit the remote Tibetan kingdom of Dolpo. In the early 1960s, Hoffman befriended the Dalai Lama while living in Dharamshala, India. Several Tibetan monks have contributed to the construction and creation of Hoffman's eastern-inspired sustainable research center in Lagunitas, California, which he calls "The Last Resort".
The Last Resort
Hoffman lives and works at a complex of home and business buildings he dubbed "The Last Resort" in Lagunitas, California. The mission of The Last Resort is to discover and perfect sustainable methods for waste management, water reuse, and food security. Using his research into vermiculture (worm composting), Hoffman invented "the worm palace," a system that converts all household waste to high grade fertilizer, part of Hoffman's quest for a "super soil". Hoffman first presented the benefits of vermiculture to the International Symposium on Earth Worm Ecology in Columbus, Ohio in 1994. Worm boxes based on Hoffman's designs are currently used throughout the world. Hoffman has also installed a greywater system, a two-vault composting toilet using a simple design formerly approved by the state, and solar systems at The Last Resort.
The Last Resort is also known as a living history of architectural research. Hoffman has directed the construction of the over 25 innovative and eclectic structures that constitute the complex over the past 40 years using low-cost and recycled materials and building techniques he learned throughout his extensive travel. "It is an important and significant example of east-west Folk Art" according to "sustainable architect" Sim Van der Ryn, who was appointed California State Architect by California Governor Jerry Brown, and is on the architecture faculty at the University of California Berkeley.
Prior to entering the tea world, Hoffman invented a unique sonic cleaning system for the cleaning of precious ancient textiles, fine art, and artifacts, and had several important clients including New York's Metropolitan Museum, the Textile Museum in Washington DC, the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, and the Smithsonian.
- Official Website of THE LAST RESORT
- In Hippie Holdout, a Fight Over Worms and Moats NY Times April 23, 2012
- Tour The Epic Sustainable Home That California Is About To Demolish, Business Insider, July 23, 2012
- David Hoffman's Lagunitas home a work of art or a dangerous eyesore? Marin Independent Journal, July 24, 2012
- All in this Tea: Les Blanks' Return, Village Voice, June 24, 2008
- David Lee Hoffman, Tea Pioneer, Samovar Life
- The Imminent Destruction of Worm Palace
- How the Law Caught Up With a Marin County Visionary