I love Taiwan for its night markets and scenic sites and I have made at least 4 trips there now.
In the past, I would not even bother looking for coffee as this is a community that raves highly on tea. And their tea are indeed refreshing. From bubble teas to cold brews, I drink them all. Look at some of the amazing tea they have readily available in stores.
Recently, the Taiwanese community have shifted and started to consume much more coffee. To my delight, I have been lucky to be able to chance upon a couple of good establishments. That said, the community is still lacking behind in terms of coffee.
Fong Da Coffee - 蜂大咖啡
Address: No. 42, Chengdu Road, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
This is one of the oldest cafe and coffee roaster located right at the back alley of Xi Men Ding. They have been around for more than 60 years!
The master works on a Probat roaster.
They sell traditional chinese cookies to pair with their coffees instead of the typical cakes from modern cafes.
Despite the beautiful latte art and the reputable long history, I did not really enjoy my brew.
Maybe it is because the beans are too fresh or if the roast profile is too dark, I find that my coffee has a weak body, little aroma and is overly bitter. Perhaps I was just unlucky. But coffee is very personal and my taste preference might not be the same as the locals.
Regardless, the shop is packed with patrons and I will certainly give them a go if I visit again.
Fujin Tree 353 Cafe
No. 353, Fujin Street, Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 105
We found this cafe purely by chance while shopping around this district. It is not one of the most convenient place to visit as a tourist in Taiwan.
What a gem this cafe was! It is run by Berg Wu, who is the Barista Champion of Taiwan in 2014.
We ordered a SOE Set (Single Origin Set) that consist of a shot of espresso and one cappuccino. One of the better ways of tasting the different notes of a coffee as milk tends to cover up or bring out other flavors from the beans.
I am quite blown away by what I have tasted as the espresso has a unique sophisticated flavor. The cappuccino mellows down the rich body and brings out the floral notes from the coffee.
I will make a trip to Taipei just to savor this again. (if only I am dirt rich)
Places to avoid
There are more and more "micro roasters" popping out of the streets in Taiwan that is trying to copy the set up of a typical bubble tea store. Most of these cafes spot a tiny roaster such as the photos below.
I will avoid these coffee stores at all cost.
Unlike those in South Korea, these are chain stores that serve low quality coffee to the mass market. The roasters are truly in operation, but it is used more so as a gimmick to attract customers or to trick them into thinking that they are serving specialty coffee.
Conclusion? Taiwan is still not a place where I will go to look for decent coffee. They do better with their fried street food and bubble teas.
Oddly, there are small industries within Taiwan that is growing rapidly in terms of coffee machinery and roasters. I have chanced across many Taiwan made products that are improving dramatically in terms of quality and technology.
Hopefully when I return in a couple of years, I can see a greater shift in this industry.