New ideas brewing in Taiwan tea
CHEAP instant "bubble tea" has become one of Taiwan's best-known exports.
Now, a new wave of entrepreneurs hopes a high-end modern take on traditional brews will also be sipped worldwide.
Taiwan has been producing tea for more than 200 years but exports have been knocked by rising labour costs and bubble tea has eclipsed a carefully crafted cuppa.
Often artificially flavoured and loaded with milk, sugar and tapioca pearls, bubble tea has in recent years gained fans, from South-east Asia to the United States and Europe.
Ultra-modern tea shop Xie Xie is trying to turn the tide back to sophistication. Founder Xie Yu-tung, 30, comes from a family of tea producers.
Her sleek all-white tea boutique at Taipei's Mandarin Oriental hotel is stacked with teabags in book-like boxes and clear cylindrical bottles of ready-to-drink cold brews.
She hopes the pretty packaging and ready-made bottles will attract uninitiated foreign customers.
At US$21 (S$28) for 10 teabags, she said it is a reasonable price for top tea.
Ms Xie has served her tea at the Venice film festival, Paris fashion shows and Milan design week.
Other entrepreneurs are hoping to create a cafe culture to woo younger generations.
At David Huang's salons in Taipei, you can order organic Taiwan-grown tea served with tea-flavoured French pastries.
"I don't want to see tea-drinking fade into history because young people think it's old-fashioned," said Mr Huang, who opened the outlets after studying marketing in France.
Noted Lin Chih-cheng, president of the Association of Taiwan Tea: "To some young people now, running a tea company is attractive and trendy, it's like being the owner of a French vineyard.
"They feel like they are part of a creative, cultural industry."