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David Lee Hoffman, Tea Pioneer: Part I

David Lee Hoffman: Part of the beauty of tea is you can get so many different tastes and sensations with it. Almost emotion, each tea has a different emotion and personality. And you could shape that personality, you could play with it, depending on how you steep it, and the water, and the temperature, time, and the quantity of leaf you put in, it all has a contribution to the shape that you want to give that tea.

Jesse Jacobs: Hi! I’m Jesse Jacobs, and I’m here today with David Lee Hoffman, and David was one of the pioneers in bringing organic, artisan, handcrafted tea to America. And he started his company in the 90’s?

David Lee Hoffman: In 1990.

Jesse Jacobs: 1990 and we have great tea in America largely due to a lot of the efforts that David put in to place, years ago.

David Lee Hoffman: Hmm…

Jesse Jacobs: So how did you get in to all these teas? What brought you to it?

David Lee Hoffman: Curiosity… I don’t know… You know, I live in…

Jesse Jacobs: One day, you’re walking down the street and someone said, “Taste this… and put tea,” and do you remember the critical point that brought you to tea?

David Lee Hoffman: I can’t say when the exact transition was… where I had that revelation, “Ah… This is tea,” but when you’re drinking these kind of teas… teas of these sort, they live in memory on you, you take a sip and you enjoy and then you find, “Gee, that’s a taste that I’m not familiar with… but I somewhat enjoy it.”

So the first one is from [2:10] Nanosan in Sisfombana [ph], and these are these are the old trees and of course, these days, everyone always tells you, “Oh yeah, high mountain old trees,” usually they’re not.

The marketing of pu-erhs have become pretty creative in the last few years. Very often, the wrapping you see on the tea does not represent what’s inside the wrapping. And this is a good example, this is not what’s inside there, I know, because I personally collected those teas when they were picked off the trees.

And stood there while they processed it, so I would know that I actually received that tea, very often we don’t. It’s going to be a nice tea for aging and I’m looking forward to drinking these tea 10 years from now.

Jesse Jacobs: And how is this one made?

David Lee Hoffman: This is actually just the green, they pick it, they fire it slightly, and roll it and then its… the rest is finished of from the sun, it’s sun dried.

Jesse Jacobs: That’s saiqing…

David Lee Hoffman: Saiqing, yeah, very good.

The problem with pu-erhs as they become so popular in the last few years that the quality is actually gone down on the pu-erhs, and every year it’s more and more difficult to get a good tasting pu-erh.

Jesse Jacobs: Why has pu-erh gone up, like of all the teas out there?

David Lee Hoffman: I guess pu-erhs would continue to be a good investment, because it is going to keep its value as long as you start with good pu-erhs, because it’ll only improve and go up in value.

Jesse Jacobs: So, David what do you see happening with tea in America, say 10 years out, where are we heading?

David Lee Hoffman: I think tea will, you know, increase in popularity every year, I think we’ll see a continued growth, only because, it’s fun, it’s easy, and they’re very inexpensive, that’s what people don’t get.

They get frightened if they see $80 a pound, or a $100 a pound. These same teas actually cost less per cup than common teabags, very often because with your, you know, teabags that you get in any supermarket shelf, you get one steeping out of it, whereas with the quality leaf, three, four, five, 10 steepings. I had a Phoenix Bird Oolong; I literally got over 30 steepings from.