"I quit my comfortable Silicon Valley VP job to found Encha in 2014 because I had an epiphany when I tasted the most delicate organic matcha in a farm in Uji, Japan and when I felt the unprecedented Zenergy from drinking it. The days are never the same. So many more people can benefit from its Zenergy and antioxidants and enjoy this green goddess of the nature.
With Encha, more importantly, I want us to show to the world that organic-only is affordable and enjoyable. On top of that, I want to grow the Encha community 'organically' without ads. My social science training at Stanford taught me a belief: Intrinsic value doesn’t require extrinsic fanfare."
Li Gong, Ph.D. - Founder of Encha
The last time when I drank coffee was in an early February morning. I had just flown in London with SAP colleagues to run a workshop in the headquarters of a big company. To overcome jet lag, I drank the free coffee provided in the workshop. I felt neurons were jumping in my head. I said lots of verbiage because I was anxious to perform, not necessarily putting forward clear thoughts. On the plane back to San Francisco, I flipped through foreign movies and watched "Ask This of Rikyu". The zen elegance of Rikyu's tea ceremony in that historical context of political and emotional conflicts left a subtle but deep impression in my mind.
Gradually, I started to research teas by reading the scientific articles indexed in PubMed and learn more about the immense varieties of teas. I was so surprised to see over 25000 articles in PubMed about "green tea" and over 5000 articles about "green tea antioxidant". To my learning, tea bag has lost most of the antioxidant in the tea leaf because most tea bags were made from tea leaf crumbs in the first place. Oh well, bye to the free tea bags in the office. Another big belief in my life is to live an organic and natural life as much as possible, especially after I had lived next to a Whole Foods store in SoMa, San Francisco for 7 years.
Yearning to find organic green tea farms which may or may not exist, I gave myself a good excuse to take the summer of 2014 off as a vacation of nature quest. I hopped between Japan and eastern China a few times which are known for green tea farming. From the very first organic green tea I set my foot on, I was mesmerized by the lush rolling green tea fields in the mountain. Due to organic requirement, many organic tea fields are pushed to the mountains because the ridges created a natural barrier from the conventional tea fields to prevent overflow of pesticide.
There is nothing more fulfilling than learning green tea varieties from the farmers themselves. All the organic tea farmers who I met are humble. They switched to organic to remove harm to their own bodies in the first place. I was warned many times by industry people and even by farmers that organic-only teas might have the challenges of much lower quantity and possibly less pleasant taste. Surely, all the organic green teas I tasted have a grassy note. But the best grown organic green teas have such pleasant and delicate grassy note, reminding me the early spring scent in the nature. So, when I tasted the conventional green teas which did not have any grassy note, I started to wonder what kind of synthetic chemical fertilizer was fed to the plant.
I came back to San Francisco with a suitcase of organic green teas including matcha. I was amazed and overwhelmed by all the varieties. I tasted them repeatedly with friends who are chefs, perfumerist, or good at verbalizing tastes. It was a lot of fun. One morning after I drank a bowl of organic matcha from the farm in Uji I visited, I felt my mind was elevating as if a big calm blue lake was broadening under the warm sun. I never had such a feeling before. Immediately I broadened my research to look into caffeine, and THEANINE in matcha.
I went back to Uji, Japan. I sat down with the farmer and learned more about their history, organic transformation and matcha farming. The father switched to organic farming in 1987 when he felt sick. Blood test showed his body got some chemicals. In that spring, he immediately stopped using pesticide and chemical fertilizers. He learned from university researchers and organic community, cleaned up the soil, and experimented with natural organic fertilizers. Patience, dedication and daily care of the soil and plants have paid off. They grow the best organic matcha I have ever tasted. I felt it is my calling to bring it to many people to enjoy its natural taste as well as benefits. So I quit my job and founded Encha on Nov. 18, 2014.
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