Founded in 2013, Eco-Cha Teas was created to represent the artisan tea industry in Taiwan and to offer tea lovers worldwide the best teas from Taiwan. The company sells loose-leaf Taiwan tea, including black and green teas, but specializes in providing oolong tea ranging from high-mountain oolong teas to roasted and unroasted oolongs.
Eco-Cha (一口茶), pronounced the same way in English and Chinese, carries meaning in both languages. "Eco-Cha" in Chinese means
"A sip of tea"
Created out of a dedication to artisan tea culture and the realization of how small, family-run farms in Taiwan are progressively employing eco-friendly methods of tea cultivation, this name is a testimony of a commitment to the preservation of traditional artisan tea production and the promotion of sustainable agriculture in Taiwan’s tea industry.
No matter which language Eco-Cha is spoken or heard in, it carries meaning. In English "Eco-Cha" represents a commitment to sustainably produced teas and the artisan tea industry in Taiwan. In Chinese, it is a reminder to stop, breathe, take a sip of tea and be in the present moment.
In 1993, co-founder Andy Kincart returned to Taiwan after having lived here for a couple of years. He returned to Taiwan determined to source tea directly from farms that he knew were only a short distance from his residence in Taichung County.
This conviction was brought about by his experience living in Los Angeles from 1992-93, and combing the city for a source of quality Taiwan tea. He found only over-priced, mediocre quality tea. This actually influenced his decision to move back to Taiwan. He was compelled to be back in the world of tea that he was enamored by in his previous sojourns on the island.
As destiny would have it, Andy was introduced to a family in Lugu, Nantou County during their winter tea harvest of 1993. This family became his adopted Taiwan family. He began visiting Lugu and hauling backpacks full of freshly harvested oolong back to Taichung on a seasonal basis to share with his friends.
Andy ended up returning to the US a few years later and began importing tea from Taiwan as the sole proprietor of one of the first English websites to export Taiwan tea. He visited Taiwan during the spring tea harvest from 1997 to 2000 and had tea shipped to him at winter harvest time. He returned to Taiwan in 2001 and has lived here ever since. Teaming up with friends who also made their home in Taiwan, Eco-Cha was founded to support the artisan tea industry in Taiwan and to share this life-long connection to Taiwan tea culture.
Eco-Cha's connection to Taiwan
Andy personally knows each farmer from whom Eco-Cha sources tea with many sources being friends for many years. Regular visits to these teas artisans reinforce the commitment to fully understand and be abreast of all aspects of Taiwan tea production.
These connections allow the sourcing of unique, small batches of some of the best tea available in Taiwan that typically do not make it into stores – even on the island. Eco-Cha has been visiting the homes, farms, and factories of tea farmers in Central Taiwan for 20 years and has developed life-long friendships and observed generational shifts within the industry.
Types of tea
High Mountain Teas
High mountain oolong tea is grown at high elevations above 1,000 m (3,300 ft) with the highest elevation farms in Taiwan producing only two harvests a year. Eco-Cha offers a wide variety of Taiwan high mountain oolong teas representing some of the best high-quality oolong tea direct from farms in Taiwan.
Roasted Oolong Teas
Eco-Cha also offers a wide range of roast Taiwan oolong teas. Roasted oolongs undergo post-production "curing" of the leaves and typically are roasted or baked at low temperatures for long intervals. Roasting also increases the shelf life of the tea leaves.
Lightly roasted tea has undergone one to two intervals of being baked for several hours at low temperatures. This transforms the character of the tea from fresh green to a mellowed, more full-bodied brew.
Heavily roasted oolong tea has undergone multiple intervals of being baked for several hours at low temperatures. Often, the artisan will increase the heat in the final hours of roasting to ensure a fully balanced roasted flavor. Heavily roasted tea delivers a distinctly hearty, bold character that can endure multiple brews.
Unroasted Oolong Teas
Unroasted oolong tea does not undergo post-production "curing" of the leaves. Traditionally, the leaves are often roasted or baked at low temperatures for long intervals. However, "fresh" or "green" oolongs are left unroasted to maintain the naturally occurring aromatic oils in the leaf. Eco-Cha is proud to offer a wide selection of unroasted Taiwan oolong tea.
Eco-Cha Tea Club
Besides selling loose-leaf tea, Eco-Cha also runs a monthly tea club called the Eco-Cha Tea Club where they send hard-to-find specialty teas direct to people’s doors. Teas offered through this club aren’t available through normal retail channels and are sourced directly through personal connections made with local Taiwan farmers.