Taipei, Jan. 25 (CNA) When American Andy Kincart first arrived in Taiwan in 1989, his main goal was to learn Chinese while working as an English teacher, and he knew very little about Taiwan's tea culture.
Today, Kincart, 56, is an entrepreneur who exports organic Taiwan tea, mainly to buyers in Europe and the United States, under his Eco-Cha Teas brand.
"'Eco' means ecology in English, while 'cha' means tea in Chinese, which highlights the fact that it is organic oolong tea, grown by farmers in Luku Township, Nantou County," he said.
"The stories of those farmers are usually included in the tea packages to promote Taiwan's unique tea culture abroad."
It all started when Kincart was a teacher in Taichung 31 years ago, paying occasional visits to the home of a student, where the family offered him freshly brewed Taiwan tea each time.
For Kincart, a Californian, this was a new taste, which he soon grew to love. Before long, he found himself roaming the mountainous areas of Taichung and Nantou on his motorbike, seeking out the tea farms.
"During those visits, I chatted with farmers, who often offered me tea and told me about the different varieties and how to brew them," he said.
In 1992, Kincart returned to Los Angeles, where he found it hard to obtain quality Taiwanese tea.
"I sometimes bought Chinese tea, but the quality was poor and the prices were high," he said.
That prompted Kincart to set up an online business to supply imported Taiwan tea leaves to U.S. customers via a website that he named Black Dragon Teas, he said.
As Kincart grew more interested in the business, he decided to move back to Taiwan and learn about tea growing and processing in detail.
"I soon realized that while Taiwanese farmers were skilled at growing tea, they knew little about marketing their products," he said.
This presented a business opportunity for Kincart, and he enrolled in some management courses at Providence University before going on to establish the Eco-Cha Teas brand with some friends in 2013.
"Many tea farmers in Nantou have adopted environmentally friendly practices, growing their crops without the use of pesticides or other chemicals," Kincart said. "Although their tea production is small, the quality is high."
Taiwan teas are highly sought after by U.S. consumers, Kincart said, adding that the methods of brewing and the aromas are quite unique.
"The goal of Eco-Cha Teas is not just to help export Taiwan teas but also to promote the country's tea culture and history throughout the world," he said.