This article is a declaration of love to Taiwan, and to filter coffee. Because Taiwan really surprised me. Not only thanks to the 20 degrees Celsius more after the cold shock in South Korea, but also and especially because of its incredibly hospitable people and the equally great filter coffee. Not only in the megacity Taipei, but also in the other parts of the country.
Find out in this article, which cafes are my favorite in Taiwan and why.
During my coffee trip through East and Southeast Asia, my way led me to the island of Taiwan after leaving South Korea, which is only 2.5 hours away by air. Strictly speaking, the archipelago belongs to China. But I was told that China and Taiwan couldn’t be more different.
Since my (coffee) trips haven’t taken me to the Middle Kingdom so far, I can’t make any statements about that. Sure, Taiwan is a paradise for nature lovers, surfers (!), Foodies – Taiwan is THE country for street food – and coffee geeks like me.
No one among my friends had visited Taiwan so far, so I didn’t know what to expect. That’s why I limited my stay to 10 days – for the whole country.
In hindsight, I know that’s way too short! Sure, the island is comparatively small – Taiwan measures only about 500 kilometers from north to south. To explore the country in detail and not only to picking out the highlights, as I had to do it, you should plan at least two, if not three weeks. With a little help, I had put together a tight but scenic program.
How could I have guessed that on the way – even in the smallest cities – I was served excellent (filter) coffee, too?!?
However, my tour of Taiwan started in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital and home of Berg Wu, World Barista Champion 2016. Of course, I also checked out his Coffee Shop Simple Kaffa.
Taipei’s specialty coffee scene is huge and its reputation – the Taiwanese are filter coffee professionals and love light roasts – hurried ahead of my visit. I visited fifteen cafés, coffee shops, and coffee roasters in Taipei, but my list of favorite cafés has only four.
Why? Well, initially my focus is on filter coffee – I love filter coffee and mainly prepare myself a cup or two each day at home. In addition, I have selected shops that either have a special approach or have been noticed and remembered for another peculiarity.
My favorite coffee shops in Taipei
I spent five days in the Taiwanese capital and worked my way up from street food stand – I just couldn’t get over the sweet buns – to coffee shop for sightseeing and back. Below are my four favorite coffee shops.
On my first evening in Taipei, my exploration tour took me past Impct Coffee. As I quickly realized, there are numerous coffee shops in the metropolis at intersections or street corners, including Impct Coffee, so I couldn’t get past it.
The three Modbar pour over stations also caught my attention, as I’d never seen such a device before. Since the shop was open to the street side, I could also try the filter coffee offered to me from the in-house roasting and brewed as a pour over, instantly.
In conversation with my two Baristas I also learned that the shop had opened its doors only a few days earlier. An interesting additional plus of the café for me personally was the owner’s approach: If you buy a packet of Impct coffee as a customer, you get a code that supports one of the many school projects, such as the construction of elementary schools in Guatemala.
Paper Street Coffee Company
The Café on the corner is centrally located and serves coffees from various roasters throughout Taiwan. This is not spectacular in itself, as there are numerous multi-roaster cafés in the Specialty Coffee World. However, Paper Street Coffee literally opened my eyes and my filter coffee palate. Until my visit, I only knew washed and sun-dried coffees.
I had heard of honey-processed coffees but hadn’t tried them yet. Paper Street Coffee finally introduced me to the world of red and black honey processed coffees, where the coffee goes through various stages of honey processing.
From ‘black’, when dried, comparatively much of the mucilage (this sticky layer gives the honey-processed coffee its name) remains on the coffee bean until ‘red’, only a little bit of mucilage is left on the bean. There is also “yellow” honey processed coffee, which is then the precursor to washed coffee, i.e. the coffee bean is freed of all protective layers.
What does this type of preparation do with your filter coffee? In my case, the red honey from Costa Rica tasted almost winy and the black honey even had notes that resembled a good whiskey.
The Lobby by Simple Kaffa
The reason why this cafe was on my Coffee Tour through Taipei, is that it’s the working environment of Berg Wu, World Barista Champion 2016. The Simple Kaffa is far more than the café of a champion. It is one of the few shops that also offers Taiwanese coffee – yes, coffee is also grown in Taiwan.
The interior of the cafe was very dark and not really cozy for my taste. For the photos I wanted to take of my order, the store was not suitable anyway.
But since the courtyard in which the cafe is located was covered and the weather was pleasantly mild, I just grabbed my Taiwanese coffee from the Xin-She region east of Taichung City and the pound cake and one of the tables and a set of chairs beautifully decorated with floral ornaments, framed by thousands of purple plastic leaves on the walls and did the shot.
Side note: This location is closed permanently, but I’ve added their new location and Flagship Store to the Map below.
This specialty coffee shop was a recommendation from a store that I had visited a few days earlier. The Normal had only been open about one week at the time and I was lucky enough to meet the shop manager.
Catching a glimpse on the coffee menu made me swallow for a brief moment, because here a cup of filter coffee cost between 5 and 17 euros! But there was a reason for that: All of the filter coffees offered were coffees from Ninety Plus Coffee, coffee farmers and producers for single origin coffees from Panama and Ethiopia.
I chose one of the Ninety Plus’ Maker’s Series’ filter coffee, which was called by the name of George Koustoumpardis, Barista at Athens’ The Underdog Café and ‘World Coffee in Good Spirits Champion 2015’. The Maker’s Series is a series of special coffees used by World Coffee Championship winners.
I was allowed to try this coffee in three different ways: 1. From the Marco Dripper, 2. On the rocks, 3. Shortly before I had finished the cup, I was given some hot water, which should add some additional flavor to the flavor in my cup. A really interesting approach!
(Filter) Coffee Paradise outside of Taiwan’s capital
After the five days of urban jungle, street food and coffee, I took the train southeast to the east coast of Taiwan, to Hualien. In the small town, however, I did not stay long because I wanted to explore the Taroko National Park with beautiful hiking trails and deep blue rivers located to the north.
After a day trip to the national park, I went back to Hualien, as I had booked an Airbnb over there. Not without a stopover at Café Giocare, one of the few Specialty Coffee Shops in the area.
If you wonder how I got the tips for this and the following cafés… During the five days in Taipei, I met some very interesting people from the specialty coffee industry, who gave me some recommendations for the journey. Have I mentioned that I love this global coffee community, yet? ;-)
The Café Giocare was one of those recommendations and surprised me with an open-air café, and the bar was covered. In addition to coffee, there were also all sorts of art and pottery to acquire, and the coffee is served in the locally made cups.
The southeast: Taitung and Donghe
Taiwan is very well developed for tourists, which is why I was able to travel by bus and train without much difficulty. My next leg took me to Taitung County in the southeast of the island for two days.
For my first day in the area, I explored the nearly 100,000-inhabitant coastal city of Taitung City and followed two other coffee shop recommendations:
Community Café, a café and co-working space, and Mese Coffee Roasters.
During my visit to Taitung County, I experienced what true hospitality means for the first time in my life.
Not only was I asked what made me doing this lonely coffee trip and what were the reasons for it – these questions have been asked countless times over my six months of traveling, by the way.
I was also taken by car to the city by my Barista’s friend quite natural, when I learned that the walk from the Community Café to Mese Coffee Roasters turned out to be a 45-minute walk in the midday heat.
I was invited for a coffee by other guests at Mese Coffee Roasters after chatting about coffee and traveling, too…
The next day I was invited by a retiree from Shanghai who’s living in Donghe to explore the Donghe area and its cafes together with him. Amazing times…
Both, the Community Café and Mese Coffee Roasters, could not be more different. The Community Café is modern and hip – there was Cold Brew and all the other sweet and savory delicacies that local cafes also have for their guests. If your way leads you there, definitely plan to rent a bike or a scooter, as the café is a bit away from the city center.
Mese Coffee Roasters is a small owner-run cafe in the middle of Taitung City with some dark roasted coffee that almost reminded me of the small Japanese Kissaten in Tokyo.
The next day we took the bus to Donghe, Taiwan’s surfing paradise. During my stay, the Taiwan Open Surfing took place, an international surfing championship. Who would have thought that you could surf in Taiwan …
Most impressive for me in Donghe was the café of Meg and Jamie, two young dropouts from Taipei.
The southeast of the island, especially Hualien and Taitung, is called the backyard of Taiwan, where many are moving out of the capital to break out of the treadmill and lead a simpler life and, like Meg and Jamie, make their dreams come true.
The two young women were once software engineers until they moved to the southeastern coast into the surfing paradise and swapped the desk for roaster and coffee maker. Meg roasts and prepares the coffee, Jamie bakes the incredibly delicious cake, which I was able to try.
The name of their café, 逗留 豆 遊, noted on Facebook as’ mjcafe ‘means translated into English, ‘stay here for a while’. I sure did! :-)
Would you’ve thought of finding such stories in Taiwan? I didn’t until this very day …
The West Coast: Kaoshiung city
One of my last stops in Taiwan before I went back to Taipei, took me to Kaoshiung on the west coast. I have to admit, I personally prefer the small and relaxed cities on the east coast over the loud cities on the west coast.
Anyways, in Kaoshiung you can find the Café of Jacky Lai, World Coffee Roasting Champion 2014.
Several things convinced me of the skills of the owners and Baristas alike over here: I was allowed to smell the ground coffee, after it had been briefly shaken. During my travels, I’ve often experienced in specialty coffee shops that my filter coffee was try-tasted by my barista before it even was served to me. This is not being done in Germany, at least as I’m aware of.
At Cafe自然醒 or ‘Cafe Wake Up’, so to the English translation of the café, the first brew of the coffee ordered by me must have been unpalatable, because only after the second time brewing with the siphon I was finally given my order. The presentation was also very special: My coffee was served hot in a cup and also cold on ice in a wine glass…
Have your coffee trips ever taken you to Taiwan? What are your experiences?