Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Drop Coffee (滴咖啡)

Drop Coffee
Xinsheng S. Road, just north of Wenzhou St. Lane 86, the Family Mart and next to Taiwan First Milk King (台一牛奶大王) and near Cafe Bastille in one of those two old Japanese-era houses across from NTU.

The lowdown:

You guys know I love me some good coffee, and I usually drink lattes because the swill you get at most places isn't worth even trying to drink straight. Not that I don't also love swill on occasion - I always get the horrible, American roadside diner-esque coffee at Grandma Nitti's when we go. It's also true that most places - even coffeeshops - in Taipei only have espresso machines, so they can only make espresso-based drinks.

This place, though, turns coffee-making into an art, without being pretentious. That's really hard to do: just reading this article made me snort.

Drop does in fact have a siphon bar, and coffee is accordingly priced (NT$160 and up per cup).

But, you know, it's good coffee. Really, really good. The grizzled dude behind the bar swings his little bamboo paddle and swirls coffee over the heating element like he's painting the next Picasso, but the fact that he's grizzled, as opposed to metrosexual, makes it OK.

I had - no, I loved - a cup of Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, and Brendan had Kenya AA. Both of us raved: I love coffee, but I do not describe coffee the way someone would describe wine. I don't say things like "delicate elderberry flavor with hints of oak, asparagus and lime". Just not going there. I have a very complex rating system that goes something like this:

If I need to add milk *and* sugar, it's not very good (that doesn't mean I won't drink it). = most restaurant and diner coffee

If I only need to add milk, it's good. = most coffeeshop coffee

If I don't need to add anything, it's amazing. = the coffee I've had in Sumatra and India and very rarely elsewhere.

Although I did add milk, I didn't have to. On reflection, I shouldn't have. So this place gets my top rating. It's hard to make coffee that good.

It's also clear that Drop was opened by said dude behind the counter because he wanted to indulge in and share his love of good coffee. This is evidenced by the complete lack of other options: you can have free water, or there's a wide selection of mostly generic teas (Tension Tamer, Lemon Zinger, you know, that stuff) if you bring your friend who does not drink coffee.

The atmosphere is great - in a restored old Japanese house with lots of wood, huge windows looking out over NTU and the sidewalk of Xinsheng S. Road, big, clunky candleholders and a mix of bartops with uncomfortable chairs and low tables with comfier-looking seating. (The bartops are a little wobbly). There's a huge countertop, too, but no laptop plugs near it. I wouldn't say I'm a fan of the music choices - Sarah McLaughlin (ugh) or World Cup Soccer.

There is a wireless network (called People Say), but it's slow as heck. Update: it's improved. I could barely open one page and even that took several minutes. I inquired about the slowness (private network, no other laptop users in the cafe) and Grizzled Dude just shrugged and gave me a face that very clearly implied: "So?"

There's a to-go window, as well, if you want your good coffee as takeaway.

In the end, I love this place for it's Grizzled Dude, restored-house ambiance and amazing coffee, but I'd come here alone to study Chinese or read a book. I would not bring a gaggle of friends if any of them don't drink coffee, but I'd definitely bring a small group who does appreciate a good cup. Or I might bring nothing, sit back, and enjoy the coffee.


Brian Schack said...

This is an old post, so I don't know if you'll get this comment, but I'll try anyway ...

If you want good coffee, I recommend 吉佳咖啡, which is near the Chinese Culture University. The guy who runs it roasts his own coffee, and will give you a 15 minute lecture if you ask for milk or sugar.

Personally, I have no sense of taste (I'm not called "the king of old food" for nothing), but judging by the earnestness of the proprietor, I'd say he's the real deal. He (or his family) also bakes their own cookies, which they sell. He'll probably give you some for free if you order coffee. And his daughter will occasionally practice on the piano in the shop (don't worry, she's good). It's a nice place to stop in at after a day hiking in Yangmingshan.

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

Interesting! I rarely make it up that way but I'll seek it out next time I'm there. I usually head out to those parts when I want to see monkeys on Tianmu Old Trail.