David Lee Hoffman fined $200k


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Re: David Lee Hoffman fined $200k

Postby wyardley » Jul 13th, '12, 13:16

I don't think folks criticizing him here is just a matter of their egos.

In the movie, and in videos, I think he really does come across as a weird blend of clueless, smug, condescending, and somewhat insensitive to a culture that he is supposedly interested in. I don't think that being turned off by his public persona is being overly judgemental. It's true that movies and newspaper articles invariably slant a story one way or another, so perhaps it's not fair to judge him as a person, but I think we can judge what he puts out there to the world in terms of his business / hobbies.

In his defense, while I think the press stuff about him being a "pioneer" is a bit of an overstatement, there really weren't many non-ethnic-Chinese doing the stuff he was doing in the 90s, and it was probably a lot harder to acquire Chinese language ability then (though certainly many foreign folks who spent time in China in the 90s did learn to speak fluently). I think that watching the full film (vs. the clips in the preview) gives you a good sense of that - you really do have to put it into place / time / cultural perspective.

I call shenanigans on his supposed ability to tell whether pesticides and fertilizer were used simply by smelling the dry leaf.

My favorite scene in the movie is where he's giving a long speech (apparently without a translator) about tea farming to a bunch of Chinese tea industry people. He seems quite pleased with himself, but I have a slight feeling that, other than the novelty of having a foreign guy at the front of the room, there's probably not a lot of comprehension in the room.
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Re: David Lee Hoffman fined $200k

Postby tst » Jul 13th, '12, 14:07

I wasn't trying to insinuate that people criticizing him is a matter of ego. I meant more that certain other persons in the tea community also have an arrogance about them that I've noticed (again, this is just my opinion based off ~ 1 year), and that Hoffman isn't the only one.

But I agree with what you mention here, and I should also state that there have been many helpful individuals (like you Will) that are eager to share what they've already learned, who don't presume to know everything about tea, and who seem like genuinely wonderful people.
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Re: David Lee Hoffman fined $200k

Postby iovetea » Jul 13th, '12, 15:34

i just criticize him because I'm jealous. I wish i had all his possessions ;)
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Re: David Lee Hoffman fined $200k

Postby TwoDog2 » Jul 13th, '12, 16:52

Tead Off wrote:We are happy that you are comfortable with your judgements. Now, can you be happy not making judgements? A very different point of view, no?


I was being a bit 'tongue in cheek' with my comments, but, I like your point anyway.

wyardley wrote:I don't think folks criticizing him here is just a matter of their egos.

In the movie, and in videos, I think he really does come across as a weird blend of clueless, smug, condescending, and somewhat insensitive to a culture that he is supposedly interested in. I don't think that being turned off by his public persona is being overly judgemental...

In his defense, while I think the press stuff about him being a "pioneer" is a bit of an overstatement, there really weren't many non-ethnic-Chinese doing the stuff he was doing in the 90s...

I call shenanigans on his supposed ability to tell whether pesticides and fertilizer were used simply by smelling the dry leaf.

My favorite scene in the movie is where he's giving a long speech (apparently without a translator) about tea farming to a bunch of Chinese tea industry people. He seems quite pleased with himself, but I have a slight feeling that, other than the novelty of having a foreign guy at the front of the room, there's probably not a lot of comprehension in the room.


+1

tst wrote:I'm fairly new to tea and the tea community, however I've noticed quite a bit of "ego" in the world of tea. It isn't all that uncommon to read people put others (or others' opinions) down


I think this is a great point, but there is a small difference, most people on here would never self promote themselves as a tea guru who can smell pesticides on a tea leaf with a single whiff. I have plenty of opinions, but I am also the first to admit that I know 1% ( or .00001%?) about puer or tea as a "thing". Part of the reason I find him so annoying, is that he acts as if he knows so much about a topic that is in some ways, not knowable, or greatly subjective. A bit of a snake oil salesmen. I don't think I come down on people often for their opinions of this tea or that tea, some people like apples, some people like oranges. I am more so annoyed by his general attitude.
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Re: David Lee Hoffman fined $200k

Postby Chip » Jul 13th, '12, 22:06

tst wrote:
debunix wrote:I was very excited to see "All this in tea", but I stopped watching after 15 or so minutes because the tone was so unpleasant. It suggested a degree of ego necessary to keep building in the face of the repeated red-tagging. I have no idea about the quality of his teas, or his constructions. But to keep it up in the face of repeated run-ins with the local laws--and without any mention that I saw of, say, campaigning to prove the validity of his methods & change the laws, well, that was not wise.


I'm fairly new to tea and the tea community, however I've noticed quite a bit of "ego" in the world of tea. It isn't all that uncommon to read people put others (or others' opinions) down ... even on these forums. I'm not going to say whether Hoffman is egotistical or not, but I will say that there seems to be quite a bit of ego that permeates the tea community, so why not call everyone out on it?

I'll be the first to say that I know very little, but there seems to be many who value their own opinions very highly, and if Hoffman is one of those, then he isn't alone in that regard. Just my humble opinion ...

... TeaGo ... tea infused ego. :mrgreen:
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Re: David Lee Hoffman fined $200k

Postby Bryan_drinks_te... » Jul 13th, '12, 23:27

Chip wrote:
tst wrote:
debunix wrote:I was very excited to see "All this in tea", but I stopped watching after 15 or so minutes because the tone was so unpleasant. It suggested a degree of ego necessary to keep building in the face of the repeated red-tagging. I have no idea about the quality of his teas, or his constructions. But to keep it up in the face of repeated run-ins with the local laws--and without any mention that I saw of, say, campaigning to prove the validity of his methods & change the laws, well, that was not wise.


I'm fairly new to tea and the tea community, however I've noticed quite a bit of "ego" in the world of tea. It isn't all that uncommon to read people put others (or others' opinions) down ... even on these forums. I'm not going to say whether Hoffman is egotistical or not, but I will say that there seems to be quite a bit of ego that permeates the tea community, so why not call everyone out on it?

I'll be the first to say that I know very little, but there seems to be many who value their own opinions very highly, and if Hoffman is one of those, then he isn't alone in that regard. Just my humble opinion ...

... TeaGo ... tea infused ego. :mrgreen:



Ego is a touchy subject, and I'm feeling good today. So I'll write.


We all know that each one of us has a little bit of ego in us....some confuse pride or positive self-worth, but ego, for some reason, seems to conjure up the negative side of people. In a way (now this really is subjective, but just hear me out) Ego is part greed, part hubris. We're greedy - we want to drink new and different teas, yes? We want that teapot we saw somewhere, and we'd like to afford a tong of ABC123.

What I'm saying us...we all have ego, we all make mistakes, ignore things and people and by the same idea, we're exactly the same as David.
Even I speed, even our good friends have avoided paying their taxes ...so on and so forth. I'm not condemning anyone, I'm just saying.....please, think.
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Re: David Lee Hoffman fined $200k

Postby MacGuffin » Oct 17th, '12, 10:21

tst wrote:I'll be the first to say that I know very little, but there seems to be many who value their own opinions very highly, and if Hoffman is one of those, then he isn't alone in that regard. Just my humble opinion...

I know nothing about DLH but am extremely familiar with individuals of the "I think, therefore I'll do as I please" mentality with regard to real estate laws and statutes and while I can relate to wanting to do what one wishes with one's own property, most such laws and statutes are on the books at the time of acquisition. IOW, no surprises, someone with DLH's self-declared brilliance should have researched this prior to purchasing; verdict: no sympathy, much contempt. I'm not sure I understand how this is analogous to egos here; thinking that one's method of preparing tea is the bottom line is a very different matter to civil disobedience. I'll reserve my sympathy for those who've had the tables turned on them after buying, and even then they have to retaliate through established legal channels.
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Re: David Lee Hoffman fined $200k

Postby jcov » Oct 17th, '12, 13:25

I haven't met DLH. I have spoken to him over the phone a few times (I have ordered a few puerhs from his collection). First, I never have gotten the idea or thought that he has a BIG ego or not. In fact, I've found him to be extremely humble in his dealings and interactions. He is the kind of person who will NEVER read this because he still uses a type writer to make letters.

As far as the Marin vs DLH part, I believe he should pay the fines and BE fine with it because well... law is law... unless you change it. I think he has really good ideas and as a 'wanna-be-farmer' myself I've found some of his methods useful and brilliant (not really his methods rather using methods that people used at some point in history and proved to work). I think he should pay but that he needed to take proper action if he wishes to SHOW the county and possibly other people who we can do things differently, like affiliating to an University to test his work and so on and prove it worth investigating and approving by law.

That aside, I think his puerh has been really good and have NEVER found any mold (whoever said this should provide proof at least, invoice and tea with mold?). As far as ego goes. Meh, we all have it, I think is a 'human' thing, It is up to us how we channel it and deal with it. Here I found most of the people trying to crack down their opinions as ultimate truths that should be agreed upon with no questioning, or at least expressed themselves that way.

Here I'm just a guy trying to learn about tea and love the tea as well as respect it. Every once in a while I'll get 'snotty' about tea and realize it and stop myself. Much like people with different life styles and diets should stop themselves from professing 'the right way'.

Sorry if something I wrote seemed aggressive, egoist or just too entitled. It was just my opinion as I thought about it and wrote it.

If it makes it any better, I just want every one to enjoy their tea/drink and be happy.
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Re: David Lee Hoffman fined $200k

Postby theredbaron » Oct 17th, '12, 15:01

I have never met David Lee Hoffman. I have now watched half of the documentary "All In This Tea", and i seem to have a very different impression than most here. First of all, i find the guy not full of ego, but very pleasant. Maybe because i can relate to him somehow, as i have been many years backpacking the same grounds for 5 years he has 20 years before me.
Regarding accusations regarding him "breaking the law"... difficult to explain... but when you have lived this way he has for a very long time, you do naturally question certain laws in the west (here you will most of the time find a way around those laws). Some of these laws are idiotic. Living by your wit you get used to live the way you want to live, and in countries where the primary law is not to infringe on others privacy, and anything else is up to you, really, it is going to be almost impossible to take some of the more idiotic laws serious. I am guilty of that as well, and when one day i will move back to the west, i foresee some frictions... :wink:

The documentary brings back many memories. I have been in China several times in the 90's, for extended periods, in in some of the places shown in the documentary, and loved hiking in the tea areas, drinking tea with tea farmers. The movie was done in '97, and i can really relate to some of the difficulties he faced then, especially the officials driving one away from the farmers to mass produced crap (when i was the last time in China in the early 2000's things regarding tea improved a lot by then). I don't know about China now, but back when the documentary was shot, Chinese officialdom was quite something, just getting without a student's card into a cheap hotel took acrobatics at times. Or the train stations - pity the locals - crowds of thousands waiting in line, and you , the westerner going to the small box for foreigners, yet still at times i had to wait a week until i could get a free seat.

I also do not get the impression that he has this overbearing attitude, on the opposite - in the movie at least he seems to get quite a lot of respect. I also do not see any problem at all with him willing to pay better money for good product. Often hard haggling for prices is only done in tourist areas in Asia, while locally it is often seen as not very good to bargain very hard. It is generally expected that both sides know the right price, only a small discount may be asked. But if the price is way too off, then one just leaves. Haggling too hard can easily end up in face being lost by one or the other part. Paying good money for good product is showing respect, and also will earn respect.

I just stopped the movie at the lunch he has where he has to drink lots of wine. This brings back a great memory - when i had a formal dinner in the capital of Wa State, with the whole Central Committee of the Wa government, most of them ethnic Chinese drug lords - all of them with side arms, diamond studded Rolexes, heavily armed bodyguards, and Ganbeiing all the time, trying not to get too drunk... :lol:

Anyhow, sorry for the rant, back to watching the documentary. So far i enjoy it a lot.
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Re: David Lee Hoffman fined $200k

Postby gingkoseto » Oct 17th, '12, 17:55

Just discovered this thread and I'm surprised at some of the comments here... because most people I've talked to about this issue had more positive comments on DLH... I myself don't think the house project is his fault at all. I believe it's pretty much due to vague (and lack of) building guideline to begin with. And I think he and his house project made a lot of contribution to the environment and a lot less damage to the environment than numerous legitimized mansions in the (obnoxiously?) affluent California...

Talking about ego... I liked the movie "all in this tea". There are some small things that are a little mythical (such as it mentions that DLH could smell pesticide or synthesized fertilizer from tea products). But they are really small things and overall I don't think the movie is ego boasting.

I do remember seeing thing online about DLH's business that sounds quite self-boasting. But that's about business, and it's not rare to see a business selling itself hard, right?

Then talking about ego as a tea drinker, I don't know him, but based on people's description about his ego (a lot of them seen from this thread and a few other thread). Even if the descriptions are all true, I would think, that's it? I've seen much worse ego among tea drinkers, artists, orchid lovers and many other groups of people. I don't like egoism and don't think any expertise justifies ego. But I just feel DLH's ego doesn't sound as big as many other people's. And from his open letter about this house issue, I didn't see much of ego.
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Re: David Lee Hoffman fined $200k

Postby MarshalN » Oct 18th, '12, 00:38

gingkoseto wrote: I myself don't think the house project is his fault at all. I believe it's pretty much due to vague (and lack of) building guideline to begin with.


I'm quite confused why you would think that. It seems like there are years (decades?) of notices from the county sent to him regarding his property and what he built there and how they violate the code. His chosen strategy of dealing with it is ignore and keep building. That's his own choice, and if he's not at fault, I'm not sure who can possibly be. I'm also not sure how that's vague or lack of building guideline - if there were no guidelines, the county wouldn't have sent him letters. If anything, it's him explicitly (on camera) telling everyone he doesn't care about those building code. That's totally different. My suggestion to someone like that is to move to a place where there are indeed no building codes and no neighbours to bother you - say in the middle of Iowa where the house can be a mile away from the next one.

Would you tolerate it if your next door neighbour start building big projects on his properties that are against the code? Would you think your neighbour is completely within his rights if what he's doing is clearly against local regulations? Why should DLH be exempt from rules that everyone else has to abide by?
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Re: David Lee Hoffman fined $200k

Postby Tead Off » Oct 18th, '12, 00:45

MarshalN wrote:
Tead Off wrote:I know this guy since mid 70's. He already owned the property (don't know when he bought it) which is in a very secluded area of Marin County that has always been known as sort of a hippie enclave. Back then, it was the boonies. Now, it's viewed as prime bedroom territory as Lucas' properties are. I'm not defending his illegal actions as he's always been his 'own man' but don't character assassinate him if you haven't even met the guy. Opinions are sort a like...uh, you know what.

Never ordered his teas and know nothing about them.


I don't know him, but the impression from his film is that he's a bit of a "I'm a white guy who knows more than you natives know about tea", with all that connotation. I've tried a few of his teas that I received as samples from friends, and I have to say they are uniformly unimpressive, to say the least.

This is exactly the kind of comment about his character that typifies so many Asian born people. They don't give any credit to the guy who has tried to experience and learn about the culture that they came from. Reminds me of the comment I received from more than 1 Hong Kong antiquities dealer on and near Hollywood Road in the late 80's/early 90's, 'We don't buy from foreigners'. Sorry, Marshaln, you stepped right into it.
In the antiquity world, generally, the best dealers ARE the foreigners who specialize, study, and develop a deep understanding of the art. There is no reason a white man cannot do the same (not saying that DLH has good tea or is an expert). He has made an attempt.

How many of the posters here have put in this kind of effort that DLH has? Plus, to offer up opinions based on what you 'think' you observe seems more mean than informative, based on pre-conceived ideas. Better to put your noses back in your teacup rather than someone else's business. Sorry to be so blunt.
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Re: David Lee Hoffman fined $200k

Postby MarshalN » Oct 18th, '12, 00:55

Tead Off wrote:This is exactly the kind of comment about his character that typifies so many Asian born people. They don't give any credit to the guy who has tried to experience and learn about the culture that they came from. Reminds me of the comment I received from more than 1 Hong Kong antiquities dealer on and near Hollywood Road in the late 80's/early 90's, 'We don't buy from foreigners'. Sorry, Marshaln, you stepped right into it.
In the antiquity world, generally, the best dealers ARE the foreigners who specialize, study, and develop a deep understanding of the art. There is no reason a white man cannot do the same (not saying that DLH has good tea or is an expert). He has made an attempt.


An attempt is not enough. Attempts have to be backed up by real knowledge. Judging from his teas, he doesn't have it, sorry. Just because he tried doesn't mean he deserves credit. Have you tried his teas? Have you tried his so called aged teas? They're terrible. There are indeed foreign dealers who know what they're doing. DLH is not one of them and therefore he has no right to lecture locals about tea - they know more than he does.

And who are you to say that all the best dealers are foreigners? Are you saying people with decades of experience who happen to be non-foreign are up to no good? You just stepped into the "foreigner know better than native" plate. Try again next time.
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Re: David Lee Hoffman fined $200k

Postby Tead Off » Oct 18th, '12, 01:47

I didn't say All foreign dealers know better. This has been my field for over 35 years. Knowing many of the major players, the vast majority of 'expert' dealers are foreign. They have driven the market for decades. The depth of knowledge some of these foreign dealers have is impressive plus speaking and reading the language helps a lot.

My point is anyone can penetrate the fields of study we are speaking of. It is not based on race but interest. Taste is a different matter. No one is going to satisfy every criteria that anyone sets out as a standard.

Regarding DLH and his teas, I have never drank any and have no comment to add. I know others who have and some had positive things to say. You don't but whose comments do you want me to side on?

When you go back and forth with Shah82 disagreeing on certain things, is one of you right and the other wrong? Both are passionate about tea but the opinions are purely subjective. DLH also seems passionate about tea. If someone disagrees with your taste, does it make you less knowledgeable or passionate? Can you understand my point? It is all relative and ultimately subjective. All of it, not just some of it. But you have to step out of yourself for a moment in order to accept it. Sorry, but I don't see color in any of this. I just see people with opinions.
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Re: David Lee Hoffman fined $200k

Postby MarshalN » Oct 18th, '12, 02:12

Tead Off - when DLH claims his teas are 10 or 15 years old, and they look like they're new - sorry, that's not a matter of taste, that's just bad. Which way, I don't know, because it could be bad storage, it could be bad info, it could be a lot of things, but he's not doing his job as a vendor when that happens. Shah82 and I disagree on what's better, but I'm pretty sure if you give us a set of teas we can agree on a lot of the basics. DLH's teas don't pass the basics test. His list of teas are confused, to say the least.

Of course I'd show respect to people who are well acquainted in their field, regardless of their background. I deal with them all the time in my day job as a historian of China. My dissertation advisor is a Jewish man who is probably better acquainted with late imperial Chinese history than almost anyone out there, so don't accuse me of being some angry Asian who can't see past colours just because you didn't read carefully. I was specifically talking about DLH's attitude being of the "I know more than you all do" when it's pretty clear he doesn't. Sometimes it's justified, sometimes it's not. In his case, I'm unconvinced. I'm sure you'd agree if there's a foreigner who's an antiques dealer who sells a whole bunch of really questionable items or obvious fakes, you'd think he's a fraud too. Well, that's DLH.
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