Showing posts with label taiwanese_coffee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label taiwanese_coffee. Show all posts

Saturday, June 8, 2019

My favorite Taipei cafes: 2019 rundown

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In the past I've done reduxes of my favorite cafes for atmosphere - which is mostly accurate still, though a few places have moved (such as Nancy), rebranded as restaurants (Anhe 65), are now noisy tea shops (Red House Theater), or closed (Mono Cafe). I've done one for good coffee in Taipei as well - though that's a bit more outdated: My Sweetie Pie is long gone and there is now more than one George House in the Yongkang Street area. I don't think Naruwan Indigenous People's Market is still a thing anymore, either, though I haven't been in awhile.

Both posts are now badly in need of an update - most of the places I mentioned are still open, but I've found new haunts that I like just as much.

To deal with that, I'll leave those old posts as they are (links above) and provide here a new redux of where I'm imbibing right now. This isn't just for folks who live here - when I've traveled to other cities with hopping cafe scenes, I've found blogs in English by committed residents of those cities to be helpful guides as to where to go. So I want to be one of the people who does that for Taipei. Plus, as a grad student, I spend a lot of time in cafes getting reading done or writing papers so my list of good spots has grown.


You'll see some of my old entries repeated here, with new ones added, and I've prioritized places with outdoor seating, as that's so hard to find in Taipei. I've also noted where some cafes are near other good options, as seating can be so hard to come by. There's also a bias towards southern Taipei because that's where I live and hang out. Overall there's simply a lot of bias for "places I actually go to", so there's not much more to unite them thematically than that. No pretension to "the best" or "the top 10" or whatever - just my real world.

Instead of looking up each address like it's still 2010, I've gone ahead and made a Google Maps list, which you can access here. (I realized after I'd made it that I could actually create a map rather than just a list, but I'm too lazy to go back and re-do it, so this'll do for now.) 



Heritage Bakery and Cafe

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This 'newcomer' (opened in 2016) has quickly become a go-to spot in the Taipei Main Station/Ximen area. Pretty much everything about it is excellent - you feel as you walk in that you're somewhere in New York being exceedingly posh in that middle-class hipster sort of way. If that doesn't sound appealing to you - a bit to gentrificationy - don't let that deter you (you're not gentrifying much here - the neighborhood is much the same as it always was). Go for the bright, attractive upstairs seating with exposed brick walls, the very good coffee and other drinks (non-coffee drinkers can choose a variety of teas or fizzy drinks, or beer) and most of all, the desserts.


Oh, the desserts.
Westerners who complain that Taipei doesn't have good dessert options can shove some of this cake in their cakehole - from fluffy, perfect, cinnamony cinnamon rolls which sell out quickly to pink guava cheesecake to sea salt caramel Belgian chocolate cake all in generous or even huge servings, this place knows how to do Western-style desserts. The foccaccia sandwiches are quite good too - try the chicken avocado club.


It's not particularly cheap - drinks, sandwiches and a cinnamon roll for 2 will cost you NT$900 and change - but it's not insane. 90-minute limit on holidays and weekends. Otherwise, pretty much the only downside is that the air conditioner is often on full-blast, which makes it a bit chilly. Bring a cardigan.

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This Cafe ((這間咖啡)


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This is quickly becoming one of my favorite work cafes. Very strong social movement bent (check out the "I Support Taiwan Independence" banner in the back), good wifi and lots of plugs - it's quiet and you can usually get a seat. It's a little dimly lit but that just adds to the charm and isn't a problem if you're on a computer, and the table in back is set under antique Taiwanese milk glass hanging lamps. They have non-coffee drinks including beer, and a small selection of sandwiches and salads which are reasonably priced. I think I also like it because the guy who most often works there knows me on sight and knows my order by heart now. Plus they're open pretty late. There are other cafes nearby, such as Perch (nice, but often crowded) and PuiBui, which I haven't tried yet. 


Cafe Le Zinc


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Set in the back of an old Dihua Street shophouse, Le Zinc can be accessed through the Art Yard ceramics shop from Dihua, or directly from a little lane that snakes around the back. Seating is limited but I've never had a problem, and the well-lit long table has plugs. There's also strong wifi. Windows look out into the narrow courtyard of the old house, where the bathroom is. There's an extensive (but expensive) wine list - house wine by the glass is more affordable - beer, coffee and light food. Music leans toward the jazzy and old-fashioned, which I like. It's a good place to work (on account of the big table, wifi and plugs) and also a good place to meet friends just to chat.

In fact, this whole area is bursting with cafes - if you can't get a seat at Le Zinc, you can surely get a seat somewhere. There are so many that I can't possibly put them all on my map.

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Fleisch

Dihua Street is actually bursting with cafes these days - a huge change from my first few years here when it was a somewhat forgotten corner of the city where you could do a little fabric or dry-goods shopping and check out the old buildings, but not much else. If anywhere in Taipei has gentrified, it's here - and yet the fabric and dry-goods sellers still mostly seem to be in business. Where Le Zinc stands out for its table space and wine/beer list, Fleisch has some unique coffee drinks - my favorite being a latte with dried Mandarin orange (dried citrus slices are fairly common dried goods in Taiwan - they make a nice drink steeped in boiling water.)



Hakkafe

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A very new addition to the Dihua Street cafe scene, Hakkafe was opened by an entrepreneurial Hakka guy named Terry who is friendly and enthusiastic about his mission to create a modern cafe space with a traditional Hakka twist. The space is large, minimalist and quiet, done in shades of black, white, gray and wood. We especially liked the Hakka BLT (with Taiwanese pickled green chilis), and the brownie was wonderful. I highly recommend the Hakka breakfast tea - Terry noticed that England has a 'breakfast tea' culture but Taiwan, another tea-drinking nation, does not. So he set out to blend his own. The results are stunning.

This is the only place on the list that doesn't actually serve coffee, but you won't miss it if you try the Hakka Breakfast Tea.

It's also near funky-looking Chance Cafe (
一線牽), which I haven't tried yet. 
 

The Lightened

Formerly Backstage Cafe, which had a student activist/social movement theme (yes, a theme, but the former owner was apparently active in those circles), The Lightened is now associated with Anmesty International Taiwan. Located on Fuxing South Road near the back gate of National Taiwan University, The Lightened is unpretentious, well-lit, there are lots of plugs and good wifi, and you can always get a seat. The coffee is good (and fair trade), there's a small selection of beer and the desserts are homemade. On weekends a spunky black-and-white cat might be around.



Rufous Coffee


Almost directly across the street from The Lightened, Rufous is a bit darker, more famous, and is known for having top-notch coffee. Any of the single origin choices are good, and the Irish coffee is spectacular. That said, non-coffee drinkers won't find much here, and they don't have much in the way of food, either. I like it for its cozy, friendly atmosphere, though it can be hard to get a seat sometimes. Not far away there's a 2nd branch, which is quite close to URBN Culture. 



Shake House (雪可屋)


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 I simply cannot write a post about coffee without including my long-time hangout. I don't know why I go to Shake House. There's no wifi, nor any plugs. The bathroom is tiny and through a dilapidated passageway. Lamps are hanging flower pots with ribbons. The chairs are ancient. But I just love the place - it's like, in every city I live in, I need my student hangout in some old building that's falling apart, and I just get attached to it. That's how it is. The coffee is good, the chicken sandwiches above average, the beer selection excellent (and affordable as cafes go), they're open very late and the music is...eclectic. From odd movie soundtracks to church music to Johnny Cash to John Coltrane to whatever. You just literally never know what you'll get. Also, I know the owners and they know me.


If you really need plugs and wifi, Cafe Bastille is just across the lane (and there are other cafes in the area, including Drop Coffee and its new neighbor).


Drop Coffee (滴咖啡)

Drop is another coffeeshop I always include. On Xinsheng Road just across the street from NTU, the space is a renovated Japanese wooden house. The owner is passionate about coffee and does a mean siphon brew. The dog - 橘子 (Orange, although he is black) - is unfriendly in a comical way. There are a few teas on the menu as well as some desserts but really you come here for the coffee. A new place has opened across the lane which has more space, but I haven't checked it out yet.


Cafe Philo


If you go to any sort of political or activist talks or activities, you know Cafe Philo. They have a space downstairs just for that. Upstairs, they have generous space and a wide menu which includes food. I've been going there recently as I'm taking a course (not related to my Master's - because I'm insane) and I can always get a seat.



8%

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This large black-and-white space on Yongkang Park advertises itself as an ice cream shop, but you can absolutely get coffee here. They have a good deck if you want to sit outside, and the coffee is high-quality. You can get some interesting coffee drinks here that you may not find elsewhere - I had iced coffee in a glass flask that I could pour over a giant ice ball, and my friend had a huge ball of iced coffee that melted as he poured foamed milk over it.


Caffe Libero


Another classic, I've found myself going here less ever since Red On Tree left (they used to sell excellent French-style pastry confections on-site), and they close early on Sundays. But I still love the place for its outdoor seating, quirky indoor decor, cigar selection and more.



Yaboo

Near 8% and Libero, Yaboo has decent sandwiches and - most importantly - cats! Also a nice atmosphere, but it fills up on weekends. A seat is not guaranteed. But the cats are sweet and friendly.


Angle

Another minimalist place, I like it for its weird shape and good coffee (though all they really have are coffee and a small dessert selection). Big windows let the light in, and it's called Angle because it's set in a weird triangular building outcrop on Rui'an Street (Pillow Cafe, which is also good and used to have a corgi, is nearby. They're under new ownership - hence no more corgi - and friendly.) I find myself here on the occasional Sunday as one can usually get a seat, and there are good views from the bar seats.



Slo-mo Cafe

This place has generous indoor seating and an outdoor area partitioned off from the lane - although smoking is allowed outdoors, it's never too overwhelming. The lane is not particularly busy (except at rush hour) - you may know it as the shortcut between Keelung Road where the gas station is and the Far Eastern Hotel or Carnegie's. The only real downside to sitting outside is that there are some mosquitoes - but that's an issue with all of the outdoor options listed. The desserts are standard cafe fare - though I like the lemon cake - and the glass of white wine I once got on a scorching day was pretty good. Even better? This place never seems to fill up.



Beautiful Tree Coffee (美樹咖啡館)

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This place is tiny and odd, run by a friendly older man. I absolutely love it. There's something of a rainforest theme going on, with a little outdoor area that has birds. And a ceiling with faux stained glass skylights! I'm not sure how to describe this place beyond that, it sort of defies description and, like many quirky spots, is in a gussied-up old building. The coffee was fine, and I genuinely liked their ham and cheese sandwich. Not too expensive, either. It's very close to Slo-mo as well as another place called Kaldi that I haven't tried yet. 



A8 Cafe

A8 is one of my favorite workspaces. It was opened by world-famous Taiwanese indigenous pop star A-mei and employs indigenous staff. The space has a sort of industrial decor (concrete floor, warehouse windows, exposed brick) with good lighting, big shared tables as well as individual tables and couch areas (one of which is set under a real potted tree - my favorite spot), quirky decorative elements, plugs and good wifi. They have a full menu of cafe standards as well as meals and alcohol, but they close a bit early (around 9pm, but they'll let you stick around until they really pack up for the night.) They're closed on Mondays and sometimes take business breaks, but nearby 青沐, which is technically a restaurant, will let you order a drink and just hang out if they're not too busy. There's also a nearby place called Pachamama which I haven't been to, but looks cool. 


The FOLKS

I go here because it's near my home - it's not really a workspace but you can sit outside on the little deck, and it's basically a cool, bare-bones espresso bar in a quiet lane. 


Cafe Costumice

The Big Mama of cafes where you can sit outside, Costumice is that cafe everyone knows about, and yet you can usually get a seat (not always outside, though). Its major selling point is the huge front deck (bring bug repellent) which feels like an outdoor urban oasis. Though they are a little expensive, they're worth a splurge. There's a modest but pretty good food menu, wine (including a sparkling white which makes for a decent champagne on a hot brunch-y day) and beer.



The Key

I'm including The Key's cafe - The Key is my gym - because I've been spending a lot of time there, and they make a real effort to provide quality fare at good prices (and members get discounts). Strong wifi, plugs, a range of sandwiches and a protein-rich chicken meal if you're keto and a good range of drinks beyond coffee make it a fine place to hang out. It's been useful for me to go to the gym, do a short session on one of the cardio machines, and then head to the cafe to get some grad school work done. There are a few tables outside as well. Just down the road is another cafe decorated with hanging plants which looks promising as well - I think it's where the churro place used to be - but I haven't checked it out yet. 


Coffee Tree (咖啡樹)

This spot near Zhongxiao Dunhua has a range of fattening desserts, beer, coffee and more. The interior decor is interesting, but we go because they have outdoor seating along a lane popular with pedestrians. It's near Quay Cafe which I haven't been to but would like to try. 


Coffeeology

My go-to spot when I'm in the Taipei Arena neighborhood. Coffeeology has truly excellent coffee at great prices. No food - just some cookie-like snacks - but you can get a large latte with Irish cream (real Irish cream, not just a flavor syrup) for very little money by coffeeshop standards. There are a few chairs outside, but the whole space is fairly open so you feel like you're outdoors even though you're technically not. Great beans to bring home at good prices, too. 



Zabu (in its new location)


I actually haven't been in ages because it's quite far from where I live, but if I'm in the north Tienmu area, this is my spot. It's the same Japanese-influenced hipster haven it's always been, with great rice balls, cats, and student-funky decor that it used to be in Shi-da all those years ago before the jerks made that neighborhood boring. 


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Every few months, I teach a six-week course at the Shi-da school of continuing education, on the campus that Yongkang Street hits as it ends. During one of these classes, I have to give my trainees their final exam and then stick around to pick it up, so I go to cat.jpg while they work.

You'll find cat.jpg one lane behind that Shi-da campus, where are a small klatch of cool places, including Bea's Bistro (friendly, but more of a restaurant), Nom Nom (below) and cat.jpg. There's also a local population of yellow-and-white street cats and an urban garden, some of whom are friendly and all of whom seem to be kept healthy and fed by the local community.

cat.jpg has two of their own cats who are sociable enough (one is firiendlier than the other). They have wifi, a big work table and sandwiches on the menu. 



Nom Nom


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Nom Nom is not only a great cafe (and place where you can buy ceramic ware), but also a decent brunch spot. Sandwiches and fried chicken are served with luscious little salads, and there's French Toast on the menu. Try the cumin chicken sandwich with apple and honey for sure. Their milkshakes are straight-up luxurious, served overflowing on lipped coasters so they don't mess up the table. The mint chocolate milkshake is garnished with mint leaves and a dried orange slice and then sprinkled with chocolate bits. Also, the place is Peak Taiwanese Hipster.

 

Classic Coffee (品客經典咖啡)


Classic Coffee, in the Shi-da Road neighborhood which used to be fun, doesn't look like anything special. There's food and perfectly good coffee. But this place has a major selling point - a super friendly old cat who will aggressively love you, and a similarly friendly fat corgi who gets jealous of the cat. It's my favorite cat cafe because that cat is just so in-your-face with the cuddles and snuggles, and it's a fluffy cat, too. 


Notch (Front Station)


I don't typically expect funky, studenty coffeeshops in the Taipei Main Station neighborhood - it's an area loaded with cram schools, cheap shopping, a few government buildings...not a place where students really hang out. But this particular branch of Notch brings it. It's also not particularly far from the Legislative Yuan, so if you need a place to go after a good hearty protest, this is a great choice. When the same-sex marriage bill was passed last month, I spent a period of time here out of the pouring rain, watching the deliberations at the Legislative Yuan on their good wifi (far better than trying to connect alongside 20,000 other people standing outside in bad weather). 


Look Upstairs (上樓看看)


An excellent 'work cafe' in Xinyi near City Hall Station, this place has good drinks and beer. There's food too, but it's a little expensive. Lots of space, good light, wifi and plugs - you can settle in here to get things done, especially upstairs. Some tables and countertops even have desk lamps. 


2730 Cafe

Another cat cafe! This little place in a tiny shack-like building is very close to Liquid Bread and is attached to a vintage store (of which there are not too many in Taipei). I've only had the beer and coffee - they have a DPP beer! Which...odd, but tasted fine! But a big selling point here are the two cats, one black and the other white. It's also easy to get to from Xinyi, an area that isn't exactly known for its great cafes, so it's a solid choice in that neighborhood.



BreakFirst Cafe & Studio (棗點咖啡)

Sometimes we take care of a friend's pets in the Dazhi area, and this is our go-to when we're around there. The main selling point (beyond seats usually being available) is that they have several cats! 



Lion / LineUp Dessert


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I ended up liking this place because I reviewed it for FunNow - but it's a funky little spot in an area not known for cafes (the Zhongshan Elementary School MRT area), with great desserts and solid croque sandwiches. The coffee is just OK, but I go for the desserts.


Jing Xin Cafe (晶心咖啡館)


To be honest, this isn't a place I go to hang out - it's sort of a hybrid coffeeshop and crystal shop in an odd corner of Taipei. But, they roast Taiwanese coffee beans which make great gifts (and they sell them at a reasonable price), so I wanted to include them for this reason. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Updated Post: Atmospheric Coffeeshops in Taipei

Here you go - enjoy!

Added: a new address for Zabu, Yaboo Cafe, Cafe Prague, Flying Cafe/Cafe Classic, and Anhe 65.

There are a few more I want to add - each one in a temple. The one in the Confucius Temple has re-opened, and there's one you can visit in a temple near Wufenpu Fashion Market. Finally, Dihua Street has had a few coffeeshops open ever since the area's renovation. I can only hope art venues, good restaurants and cafes will take over the new spaces before the "same old same old" souvenir stores can get there.

But I don't have full information on those yet, so that'll have to be another update.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Buying Taiwanese Coffee in Taipei

Taiwan-coffee-tin-1960s

I figured I'm on a coffee roll so I may as well put up one more post about it. A lot of people - even ones living in Taiwan - don't realize that Taiwan does grow coffee. It's not famous, it's not exported as far as I know, and it varies in quality, but when grown and roasted right, it's delicious and absolutely a delight to drink. But because it's mostly very locally produced and not always easy to track down, it tends to be expensive.

The thing about Taiwanese coffee is that it makes a great gift - if your loved ones are sick of tea or are not tea drinkers, and you've given them all the Chinesey tchotchkes they can take, a bag of Taiwanese coffee is a unique and often surprising gift from the country you've chosen to call home (forever or for now).

This post will need to be updated as I double-check cafes I've been to that sell Taiwanese coffee in bean or drink form, but I figured I'd do my best for now.

Information on all of these places can be found in more detail in this post, or this one.

You can read more about Taiwanese coffee here and here.

Fong-Da
#42 Chengdu Road, MRT Ximen
成都路42號

You can get a good cup of Taiwanese coffee here for about NT150 (it may be a bit more), and I am pretty sure in their large selection of whole bean coffees there is at least one Taiwanese coffee.

Shake House
Wenzhou St. Lane 86 (Xinsheng S. Road, almost to Roosevelt, take the lane across from NTU between the Family Mart and the Truth Lutheran Church)

No Taiwanese coffee on the menu here, but you can get very high-end own-roasted Taiwanese coffee, I believe from Nantou, in whole-bean form. It costs about NT$600-800/package (prices vary based on market fluctuations). Makes a great gift, brews very well, and you'll know you're getting quality.

Naruwan Indigenous People's Market
Guangzhou and Huanhe Rd. Intersection, at the far end of the Guangzhou St. Night Market
MRT Longshan Temple

This market has a coffee stall that will brew you a cup of Taiwanese coffee that is flavorful and delicious. They'll also sell you the beans, but they're not cheap - up to NT$1100 for a bag.

Booday Cafe
Nanjing W. Road Lane 25 #18-1
南京西路25巷18-1號

This is one I'm going to have to go back and re-check. I have a memory, though, of a cup of Taiwanese coffee being on the menu. Don't take my word for it, though. I'll update this at a future date.

Leezen ((里仁) Organic Stores 
They're all over Taipei, but the one we went to is near Gongguan/Taipower Building. Near So Free Pizza, on Roosevelt Road Sec. 3, Lane 283 and across from Wenzhou Park.
羅斯福路三段283巷溫州公園旁

You can buy organic coffee from Kaohsiung here. The bags are small, but also less expensive (in the NT$350 range). It's not as good as Shake House's more expensive roast. but it is quite nice and perfectly drinkable.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Most Atmospheric Coffeeshops in Taipei

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Ya Zhi Lin Coffee on Guiyang Street

A long while back I posted my rundown of the best coffee in Taipei. While it's not a comprehensive list, it's one borne of personal experiences. Those places are still all among my favorites, and I update it regularly.

That said, there are so many other great coffee drinking choices in Taipei that may not warrant making it onto the "best" list on the merits of their coffee, but still deserve a mention for their friendliness, atmosphere or both. From posh to studenty, from knickknacky and warm to cool and minimalist, from fashionable to so uncool it's cool, here's my list of the most atmospheric coffeeshops in Taipei. There is some overlap between these two lists - I think it's justified!

Caffe Libero (or failing that - it can be hard to get seats - any number of coffeeshops in that immediate area).
Jinhua Street Lane #243 #1 (金華街243巷1號), near Yongkang Street's Shi-da end

This one near Yongkang Street also makes my list of "great coffee" and "great desserts", so you know it's a winner. The atmosphere here includes a long porch with outdoor seating, eclectic vintage chairs (think Grandma's Victorian Good Red Velvet vintage, not meet-cute '50s vintage) and old milk glass lights.

Formosa Vintage Museum Cafe
Xinyi Rd. Sec 2 #178 3rd Floor (totally innocuous building)
信義路2段178號3樓

Really just a few tables in a small space crammed with one guy's personal collection of fascinating Taiwanese antiques and vintage items - free tour with an order of tea or coffee. The only food is basic cookies, but it's worth it to just hang out here among all the old stuff with a cup of something. Great selection of vintage-style postcards for sale.

8mm
Xinsheng S. Road Sec. 3 Lane 60 #1
新生南路3段60巷1號

A newer, artier place in Gongguan with odd fashion items hung below faux goat heads, low tables and an achingly hip staff. The food and coffee are good but not excellent, but it's a good place to meet someone for a non-alcoholic drink (although they can and do spike coffee and hot chocolate).

Booday Cafe
Nanjing W. Road Lane 25 #18-1 (along the park between Zhongshan and Shuanglian MRTstations)
南京西路25巷18-1號

Hipster-friendly cafe with warm, welcoming natural light above a boutique selling handmade-in-Taiwan items. Their best coffee is the India Mysore or the Taiwan coffee and the desserts are pretty good, too.

Old Tree Cafe
Xinsheng S. Road Sec. 1 #60
新生南路1段60號

Very old Taipei "institution" full of cranky old people - many of them Mainlanders - old wood furniture from the '60s and '70s, jet fuel coffee, right smack on an unappealing section of Xinsheng S. Road (somewhere in that stretch between Xinyi and Zhongxiao, I think past Ren'ai), but worth going to for the atmosphere once inside. This one's in the "vintage before it was cool" stage of hipster evolution.

Futai Street Mansion (actually tea more than coffee)
Yanping S. Road #26 near North Gate
延平南路26號, 北門附近

A very small cafe serving basic drinks and light snacks (think cookies) in, you guessed it, the Futai Street Mansion (Yanping S. Road, just southwest of North Gate, or Beimen - one old-style manse in an area that used to be entirely made up of such architecture. It's been renovated by the government and open as a public space. The wood inside is all Taiwanese cypress, so it smells divine. You can wander the house and have tea, and I think coffee, in the gift shop.

Whose Books
Roosevelt Rd. Sec 3 #308-1 2nd Floor (entrance at the back, in the lanes)
羅斯福路3段301-1號2樓

A used bookshop in Gongguan, smack at the end of Xinsheng S. Road where it hits Roosevelt (entrance from the back, in the lanes on the other side of Roosevelt). Small coffeeshop among a sea of used books (English books upstairs). Yes, you can grab books to peruse and order a coffee or tea in the cafe as you decide what, if anything, to buy. Discounted or free drink if you donate books. The coffee isn't great, but it'll do, and I like the verbena herbal tea. I like the old square Chinese-style table.

Cat's Got Nothing To Do Cafe
Maokong - turn left after exiting the Gondola and walk past the first bit of development, until you reach the place with the white umbrellas and great view.

A small outdoor setup on Maokong with a fantastic view of the Taipei Basin towards Guanyin Mountain and Danshui. Look for the white umbrellas (from Maokong Gondola station, the best view is at the tables on the right side of the road).

It's easy enough to find. Exit gondola station, turn left, keep going past the first clutch of stalls until you get to a coffeeshop, not teahouse, like setup of white umbrella-topped tables.

Shake House
Wenzhou Street Lane 86 intersection behind the Lutheran Church and across from Bastille, near Xinsheng S. Road, Gongguan

I mentioned this before under "best coffee", and am mentioning it again for its atmosphere! With decrepit mismatched chairs, upside-down flower pot pendant lamps, a floor that feels like it'll give out at any moment, a somewhat treacherous bathroom and an impressive collection of LPs (although they often just play music off of an iPod), the studenty vibe of this friendly place can't be beat.

Nancy Coffee
Near the Chongqing/Huating/Tianshui intersections south of Nanjing W. Road

I love this 1970s throwback so much that I wrote an entirely separate blog post on it, even though they have no wifi, terrible jet fuel coffee and very mediocre snack sandwiches. It's in one of my favorite neighborhoods - southeast of Dihua Street, not far from the Chongqing-Tianshui intersection, and shows its age, and the age of the historic neighborhood around it. Really just a retro place, cool "before it was cool", in that it's totally not cool but I think it's cool, which makes me maybe a proto-hipster?

Yongle Market Coffee
Yongle Market, Dihua Street

Head to Yongle Market (that ugly thing that looks like a municipal monstrosity attached to the lovely old brick and wood-screen market on Dihua Street), where the ugly building hits the lovely building there's an outdoor coffeeshop with plastic seats, umbrella-topped tables, terribly saccharine 1950s music, mediocre coffee but pretty good choices of fresh fruit smoothies and milk blends. I like this place because it's smack in the middle of the action on Dihua Street and outside, so you can watch the comings and goings of people who spend time or do business there, and it's a good choice for a pleasant day when you don't want to be behind a pane of glass.

Drop Coffee
Xinsheng S. Road Sec. 3 #149-11
新生南路三段149之11號
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I also mentioned this one in my "best coffee" post, because it really does have some of the best coffee in Taipei (also, some of the most caffeinated). Situated in an old Japanese house, across the street from another one that's still a private residence, with an open coffee bar that you can sit at and watch your siphon brew be made, it's also got a lot of atmosphere.

Coffee, Tea or Me
Wenzhou (溫州)Street north of Lane 86 and just south of Xinhai Rd.

This spot, across from La Boheme (which used to be great, but their food went downhill and they no longer have a cat) in an area rife with coffeeshops, has a scruffy, studenty vibe with an open-ish, woody seating area, mismatched lamps, an old-skool espresso machine, good wifi, artsy posters and postcards and a very grumpy cat who likes to sleep on that espresso machine.

Red House (Ximen, not the outdoor balcony bar I like in Shi-da - that's cool too, but they don't really do much in the way of coffee)
MRT Ximen, Chengdu Road #10
捷運西門站成都路10號

IMG_0313
The famous Red House Theater, with great coffeeshop inside

 Everyone knows this historic site near Ximen (MRT Exit 1), but not everyone realizes there's a lovely coffeeshop cafe inside. When I first moved here it was where the gift shop is now, with colorful chairs, the same CD played every day and very good focaccia sandwiches - and the market behind it was unused space. Then it became Cho West, which was classier but less welcoming. Now it's something similar (may still be Cho West actually) but has a more comfortable feel, with vintage tables, crochet throws and knickknacks. When in Ximen and not at Fong-da (which has great coffee, a cheap breakfast and good beans for home brewing) I like to come here to enjoy the atmosphere before shopping in the relatively new market area for entrepreneurial artists and designers.

Fong-Da Coffee
#42 Chengdu Road, Taipei (just up the street from Red House)
成都路49號

It would be blasphemy not to mention this old Taipei institution with its old school formica tables, huge plastic tubs of snacks, sundaes and delicious coffee (including a very good Taiwanese coffee) - it's modern and popular but with a fun retro kick. Also a great place to buy whole bean coffee, and they sell coffee cups and saucers with their name and logo. I have one!

Mono Cafe
Fuxing S. Road Sec 2 #349
復興南路二段349號1F

IMG_2971 This is a more minimal, eggshell-paint-and-blonde wood coffeeshop with a friendly, talkative cat just north of NTU on Fuxing S. Road. The music is usually pretty palatable, they seem to be somewhat into photography, the food is not bad - it won't change your life but it's pretty solid as food goes - and their Bailey's latte (not to mention their Cointreau latte) are both fantastic, as is their matcha milk (think like a milky matcha tea). I like the big blonde wood tables, excellent, if you can grab a whole one, for anything involving a group - and also fine to just grab a corner if you're a pair or on your own. There isn't a lot of seating but the place feels spacious thanks to the light colors and pretty minimal design.


Rufous Coffee
Fuxing S. Road Sec. 2 #333
復興南路二段333號 

Some of the best espresso in Taipei is brewed here - try the Irish coffee, the iced cognac coffee with ice cream, the iced banana mocha espresso, and for something lighter, the honey cinnamon latte. A total contrast to Mono's sense of space and light, this place is tiny, dark, with soft chairs and tons of knickknacks and arty bits&bobs - and they are practically right next door to each other! Good people-watching from the waiting-or-smoking seats outside. Hard to get seats - often crowded. Great place to hole up on a cold, dreary day.

Lin Family Garden Cafe
Ximen Street #9, Banqiao, New Taipei City (MRT Banqiao or Fuzhong)
新北市板橋區西門街9號

IMG_1168 This almost obligatory cafe in the Lin Family Garden in Banqiao feels like it was placed here by government decree, but you really can't beat it for outdoor style. You can dip a coffee or tea and enjoy the very (very) historic Qing-era surroundings in the cobbled courtyard. It was closed the last time we happened by, but had plans to reopen and should be in full swing now.

Little Chiu (Xiaoqiu)Cafe, Zhuzihu, Yangmingshan
陽明山竹子湖小丘咖啡

Sadly, I can't find an address for this place (but I can ask a friend and update later) - it's a lovely, not too twee coffeeshop on a hillside near Yangmingzhan's Bamboo Lake (the one where you can pick calla lilies). It's near, not on, the lake, but the view from the coffeeshop and lawn on a clear day is astounding and lovely. Pretty good sweets, coffee and tea, too.

Yazhilin Coffee (雅之林研磨咖啡)
Guiyang Street Sec 2 #133
貴陽街二段133號

IMG_1206

You want atmosphere? This place in an old wreck of a shophouse, with lots of local color, is the place to go. With local residents stopping by to drink and talk with their tiny dogs, a market-like area and Qingshui Temple nearby, this Wanhua Guiyang Street stop is one of my hidden-gem favorites. Shhh, don't tell anyone. What I love about Wanhua, Dalongdong and Dadaocheng is running into cool places like this...they're everywhere, but you have to walk by them by chance to find them, you can't usually look 'em up.

***

I wanted to add Zabu on Pucheng Street to the list, but sadly, they are closed. I blame the reactionary assholes in the Shi-da community (and who must have a lot of guanxi in the government) who got all the best places (except Red House) shut down. Fuck those guys, and fuck Hau Lung-bin, their idiot playtoy who went along with it.

Update: Zabu is back! You can find them at the tippy-top of Tianmu. Go all the way to the end of Zhongshan Road where it terminates in a traffic circle (somewhere above that, past very expensive luxury apartments, is the down-mountain entrance to Tianmu Old Trail) - heading uphill towards the circle, Zabu is on the left just as the road terminates and the circle begins.

#175, Zhongshan N. Road Section 7, Shilin District, Taipei, Taiwan
台北市士林區中山北路七段175號1樓

More Updates:

I also recommend:
Cafe Classic/Flying Cafe/品客經典咖啡
台北市大安區雲和街48之1 - Da'an District, Yunhe St. #48-1 (off Shi-da Road)

This place is not actually all that atmospheric, and they have neither good wifi nor good 3G service, but there are three adorable cats and all of them are basically friendly (one doesn't like to be picked up though). There's a fat grayish-white longhair, a puffy black longhair and a shorthaired folded-ear cat. The coffee's not bad either. But really I'm just a sucker for cats. A great place to study because you won't be distracted by anything on wifi or 3G!

Anhe 65 - a big comfortable space at Anhe Road Sec. 1 #65 (安和路1段65號) in the basement - great for days with bad weather - with two cats - one friendlier than the other, good coffee, excellent sandwiches and a little shop. Sometimes booked for events.

Cafe Prague
Da'an District, Wenzhou St. #50 (closer to Shi-da and Heping Road than Gongguan)
台北市溫州街50號

I can't find a website for this place, but the atmosphere - very European (or at least trying to be, and succeeding more than most places) with polished wood floors and furniture (including tables with delicate chairs that might make you feel like a bit of a hulking mass), a grand piano, one well-placed statement vase full of cut flowers, a long, shining wooden coffee bar and friendly, uniformed staff will make you feel more comfortable than you might at first think when you walk in.

Yaboo Cafe
台北市大安區永康街41巷26號
Yongkang Street Lane 41 #26

Comfy, hipsterish place with pretty good sandwiches and coffee. They have lots of big tables and some cushioned seating, 
too. Although there is lots of space, you may have to wait at busy times (on weekends, mostly) because its proximity to 
the main drag of Yongkang Street make it very popular. There are 2 cats - a big yellow one who hides a lot and a little gray 
one who likes to sleep in a specific chair and doesn't mind being petted. Good wifi, good service,
 good atmosphere.


Fleisch
Dihua Street #76 (迪化街76號)

Fleisch has food too, but you can definitely go there and just enjoy a cup of coffee. In a converted shophouse (which doesn't have that much of a historic feel from the inside, although interesting Taiwanese souvenirs - the handmade artsy kind, not the fake Chinese kind - are on sale on the lower level, with more seating upstairs), they're right on Dihua Street near the Xiahai temple, and serve good lattes in large bowls rather than mugs.

Film Studio Cafe
Xinsheng S. Road Section 3 Lane 70 #6
新生南路三段70巷6號

A good option in Gongguan - where all the best cafes have gone ever since those crusty old reactionary jerks ruined Shi-da, with big wooden tables that can seat a group. Bring your Macbook to look like one of the in-crowd, and if you're a large group I believe you can make a reservation.

A8 Coffee
Heping E. Road Sec. 3 Lane 67 #8 / 和平東路三段67巷8號 between MRT Liuzhangli and Technology Building


A8 Cafe's dark, chic space

This large, brick-walled, wooden-tabled coffeeshop with square windowpanes is run by Bunun aborigines and has basic coffee, alcoholic drinks, juices, meals (which smell pretty good), desserts (not bad) and large tables as well as sofas and cushioned chairs for groups. It's rarely totally full and has a cool aborigine/art/industrial/retro chic vibe that I like. A latte and a dessert (all desserts come with a free little pannacotta with fruit topping along with whatever you ordered) will run about NT300.

Cafe Mussion
Heping E. Road Section 2 #134 on the edge of the National Taipei University of Education campus, MRT Technology Building
(和平東路二段134號,國立台北教育大學裡面)

This place has floor-to-ceiling windows with a modern-shabby-chic look to it - a small dessert selection and weathered-wood tables of various sizes (some low with soft chairs, some regular cafe tables, some large tables and bartops for groups). I love the thick tables and kind of want one for my house. The "academic coffee" (no idea why it's called that) comes in the coolest two-layered clear glass cup ever.

Covent Garden Coffee
#8 Lane 18 Nanjing West Road - 南京西路18巷8號 - along the lanes bordering the old railroad park that runs along the red line MRT from Chang'an Road up to Minquan W. Road, south of Zhongshan Station (between Nanjing and Chang'an Roads)

This place looks like it was featured in a "Country Decorating - Back In Style!" photo spread in Better Homes & Gardens in 1976 or so. It's '70s retro meets "country" - think lots of dark wood, pumpkins and needlepoint and dried herbs and handmade wooden clothespin dolls and your mom's kitchen chairs.

And I love it for that! It's nothing like you'd imagine Covent Garden to be, but it hits that '70s vibe so well.

Coffee is pretty good, the desserts are "eh".

Confucius Coffee
The Confucius Temple, Hami Street

It's really just a coffeeshop in a temple, and not particularly special on the inside, but it's in the Confucius temple! And the last time I was there (a long time ago; they've since renovated), they had cute napkins with a cartoon Confucius on them that said "Confucius Coffee".

Temple Court Coffee (廟口咖啡)

 photo 10314482_10152489044786202_8216885456470851835_n.jpg

Yongji Street Lane 517 Alley 8 #12-3 (or, from Houshanpi MRT walking along Zhongpo Rd. to Wufenpu, walk past most of Wufenpu to Zhongpo North Road #50 or so...it's basically right at that temple).
永吉路517巷8弄12之3(種破北路50號箱子裡的寺廟左右)

South of Songshan Station you'll run into Wufenpu Fashion Market, bordered on one side by Zhongpo Road, which runs into MRT Houshanpi station, Along that road near Wufenpu is a small temple. In that temple, facing the road, is a small coffeeshop right between carved stone columns. LOVE IT.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Ears are Burning: A Taiwan Coffeeshop Rant

I have a whole slew of shorter posts I want to write, but I  think right now I am just going to have a short rant about something totally inconsequential, yet dear to my heart.

That topic is "coffeeshop music in Taiwan".

Last year, over Chinese New Year in Kaohsiung, we were watching TV with our friend's family and an advertisement for a set of CDs came on - the set was a collection of the "best" Western music -"if you want all the best songs, from The Carpenters to Richard Marx, don't miss this amazing CD set!" the narrator intoned in Mandarin. In the background, Yesterday Once More, something by Celine Dion, Love is a Battlefield (which I associate more with the Philippines than Taiwan), I've Been to Paradise But I've Never Been to Me and other soft rock hits from the 60s through the 80s played in the background. I don't know all of the artists but I assume they all have names like The J.C. Edwards Experience or Muttles McDougalson Sings The Blues and they've all released albums with mustard-and-brown covers featuring men with bouffants and way too much chest hair, and possibly a belted sweater.

from here
And of course there's Hotel California, which, whenever it comes on someone always says "Oh that's my favorite love song!"

But that's not the worst of it - although that's pretty bad.

I mean, I don't want to come off as some music snob. I like a lot of different stuff and I'm not anti-popular artist. I don't like to say "you've probably never heard of them". I like rap (Talib Kweli!), I like rock (The Dandy Warhols! The New Pornographers!), I like folk (vintage Ani DiFranco! Neko Case! Joni Mitchell if you wanna go old school), I like classic rock (Led Zep!), I even like "goth metal" (Lacuna Coil!) in small doses and lots of world music, on top of "everyone likes them except that one guy who thinks he's so cool" bands along the lines of Radiohead and Jay-Z. I admit to liking Cake even though they're so over. I like a lot of music I expect people to have heard of, like Esthero and Tabla Beat Science, and am surprised when they haven't. I don't like much contemporary music in Asia - not a big fan of Mando-Pop or Canto-pop or J-Pop or Korean pop. I do like a lot of classical music, Western opera and Taiwanese opera (but not Beijing opera, mostly), Indian music both classical and contemporary and world music, too.

The music in coffeeshops in Taipei rankles even my relatively modest tastes in music. Forget the '70s stuff -  some of it was innovative at the time, some derivative, some pure schlock. I'm talking the stuff that actually makes you want to rip your ears off and run, screaming and bleeding, into the street.

Here's a run-down:

-  A harp instrumental cover of I Am The Walrus, with no lyrics. What is the point of that? The same exists in piano form. WHY?

- The Entertainer, slowed down to ballad tempo and played softly and lyrically on a harp. WTF

- An R&B version of A Charlie Brown Christmas, notable for being played sometime in mid-July

- Ballad. Covers. Of. Radiohead. I really have no idea. Who thought that Wolf at the Door, Idiotheque, Paranoid Android and Everything in its Right Place would make good soft rock ballads? I mean this is seriously the worst thing to happen to music since hip hop artists figured out that "in the club" could be rhymed with "sippin' bub".

- Songs by Journey - fun as they are as a pure guilty pleasure to sing to if they're playing in a bar and you've had a few - played on and I seriously kid you not, a glass harmonica. I really wish I were joking but I am not.

- The Sonny and Cher Techno Remix, and again I wish I was making that up.

- Rap music that really has no place in a family-friendly environment. I mean it's funny enough when you're shopping in Old Chen's Bedding Emporium (which is a tiny store in a crowded lane flanked by a store that sells random stuff and a 7-11) and hear Slap That (All On The Floor) blasting, and you wonder if Old Chen really has any idea what the song is about, and funnier still when you're in a taxi chatting with your student (mild-mannered nerdy engineering type) and hear lyrics along the lines of "I'm gonna hit the club wit' it, and sip some bub wit' it and and later imma hit the limo wit' it and stick my **** in it..." and I can't go on, because I started laughing so hard that I couldn't understand the lyrics anymore. But when that starts up in a coffeeshop? Really, I don't need to know who you're going to stick your what into and where it will happen and after which events it will take place as I sip my siphon Yirgacheffe.

- Something I need to add as of today: entire CDs of synthesized dog barks and cat meows belting out famous tunes. You can buy cats meowing Christmas songs (great for your coffeeshop's ambience, especially if you play them in March), dogs barking show tunes, a mixed mammal choir doing their toe-tapping, bacon-begging renditions of Karen Carpenter songs...maybe you can even buy Eminem's Greatest Hits Barked By Synthesized Dogs! If you can name an artist, song or type of music, you can probably find it in Taiwan being barked or meowed.

I'd like to say "to each his own" but...I wouldn't wish this music even on someone who actually liked it!

It leaves me to wonder not who buys these CDs (clearly coffeeshop owners do) but who makes them. Why? Why create that and send it out into the wild to make our world just a little bit worse?

And I also wonder - do the baristas care that they have to listen to this all day? Do they get nightmares? I would.

Do the owners actually think that this is good music? Would they listen to it at home? Or do they not care for it personally but think it's what we want to hear?

Basically, what I want to know is - why?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Best Coffee in Taipei


Everyone who reads this blog even remotely regularly knows about my semi-fanatical obsession with two foodstuffs: 1.) sea urchins and 2.) coffee. With coffee, I'm sort of like this.

I've written extensively about coffee before, but haven't really come out with a post that clarifies where good coffee - the best coffee - can be found in Taipei. This is that post.

You can get coffee anywhere in Taipei, from 7-11 to one of the myriad Starbucks, Dante Coffees or Ikari chains, as well as in department stores and other smaller chains (such as Artco and Is) and independent operators. It can be as cheap as a 40NT 7-11 latte (which is not your worst choice, I have to say) or as expensive as a 500NT cup of Kopi Luwak or overpriced but still substandard coffee at a lot of chi-chi cafes (Bastille, I'm looking at you).


Unfortunately, most options, as in the USA, are mediocre at best, and Charbucks is Charbucks everywhere, with their over-roasted jet fuel.

The key to a good coffee is a light hand with the roaster (even medium dark roast is fine, but many dark roasts - not all mind you - are just bitter and charred), even grinding and scrupulous preparation, although I'm the first to admit that I use a regular old coffee machine at home. The best coffee comes from a siphon brew, but it is possible to get good espresso and non-siphon coffee.

I'm not interested in listing out the millions of places in Taipei where you can get a brain-smack of caffeine - I'm talking about genuinely good coffee that one can savor, that wafts down the street with its strong scent and turns heads when you carry it away in a to-go cup. Yes, you can find it in Taipei.

Get your cup of awesome beans (the kind that hipsters and yuppies would say have a "great flavor profile") at:

Xinsheng S. Road Section 3 Lane 76 #1 (the entrance is on Xinsheng Road, not the lane)
I've praised this place to the moon and back, as you can read in the link above.

2.) The Best Roasted Coffee (TBRC)
Taipei, Shilin District - Jingshan Road #18: near the Wenhua University bus stop heading up Yangmingshan, and not far from the top of Tianmu Old Trail
This place is fantastic - you can buy a pound of coffee for NT500, and their home blend (a medium-to-dark roast) is only NT100 per cup, which is a steal. It's really tasty and goes down smoothly, so you don't need to drink it with milk (which is good, because the owner really will lecture you if you ask for milk or sugar). You can also buy cheesecake, cookies and other light fare here - the cheesecake is tangy and homemade without being too sweet.

Jinhua Street #247 - closest bus stop on a major route is Xinsheng/Jinhua along Da'an Park, also walkable from Yongkang Street

This place offers coffee that packs a flavorful punch - they take it very seriously, allowing you to smell the grounds several times to highlight different smells and potential flavors, and then serve it to you both in a standard coffee cup, which brings out darker, earthier flavors as well as in a small stemmed cordial glass, which brings out more syrupy, flowery liqueur-like flavors in the coffee. Not cheap, but totally worth it.

They also have branches in Taizhong and Tainan.

Guangzhou and Huanhe Rd. intersection near Longshan Temple
Try the "Ma Gao" coffee (馬告) at the booth selling Taiwanese local coffee here for NT90: the cup is small but it packs a strong punch of flavor, and best of all it's grown in Taiwan an (according to the vendor) is grown on aborigine-run farms, so you're doing good for the local economy and you get to try a Taiwanese local product not often found in stores.


#405 Sec. 1 Neihu Road Taipei (02)2799-4966
#123 Songde Road Taipei (02)2726-6085
#336 Jinhu Road Taipei (02) 2634-8803
#7 Lane 243 Jinhua Street Taipei (02) 2322-3830
B1 #14 Nanjing West Road Taipei (02) 2522-1681
This place is my new favorite find that you absolutely have to try. They're your best source of Kopi Luwak, if you've ever wanted to try it, and they'll brew it to perfection for you (I haven't tried it yet, but I will). I had a cup of coffee from Nicaraguan beans (can't remember which type) at their Songde Road location and I was blown away by the depth and spirit of the earthy, slightly smoky, addictive flavor. They siphon brew their good beans (lattes and other coffee types are also available) and there's a large choice of global beans, with a lot coming from Central America.

They also keep Jameson on hand, at least at Songde Road, which means they know how to make good coffee with whiskey.

Call ahead if you want a cup of Kopi Luwak - they'll make sure they have the most, ahem, fragrant beans for you to try.

Seriously - I love my Drop Coffee but this place is really just amazing, too. It's probably going to tie for 1st place in my list of favorite coffee shops, along with Drop.

6.) Black Bean Coffee
Zhongshan Road in Shilin, just south of the Zhongzheng Road intersection past Skylark and some other businesses
This place makes a good brew, if a little on the dark roasted side for my taste. A cup costs an average of NT150 - I strongly recommend the earthy but soft Monsoon Malabar coffee from India. They also sell handmade cookies.

I'm not sure if this place still exists - I haven't been there in years - but will check back soon to see if they're still around.

7.) Shake House (listed second in the post, after Red House)
Wenzhou Street / Lane 86 corner, across from Bastille, Gongguan
I usually praise this place for its homey, studenty feel and good selection of Belgian beers, but haven't mentioned how good their coffee is. They do not-too-bitter lattes, Americano and espresso, they make ice coffee in batches in a giant machine similar to a siphon, and their specialized beans are packed with flavor (try the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe or the Guatemala Huehuetenango). They can alcohol-ify any coffee order (just ask for it on request - I usually get a latte with a shot of alcohol added - I am fine with alcohol added to espresso drinks but would never add it to a good brew of quality medium-roast beans.

You can also buy the amazing Monsoon Malabar coffee here to brew at home.

#3 Lane 93 Shi-da Road, Taipei
I normally don't go for espresso, opting instead for larger servings of more expensive siphon coffee, but My Sweetie Pie makes a not-too-bitter espresso that I can really get behind. It's still darker and more bitter than I normally prefer, but it cuts through the sweetness of their delicious cakes so well that I can forgive the extra roasting time!

9.) Fong Da
#42 Chengdu Road (near Ximending)
This place is wildly popular with both coffee enthusiasts and people who love old Taipei institutions. They still use vintage equipment and have a 1950s vibe going, and lots of different beans to choose from. I have to say that I find their brews a bit overpowering (not like the deeply but not jarringly flavored siphon brews I normally go for), but hey, that doesn't mean it's not good stuff! The brew at Fong Da acts like jet fuel to the brain and still gets my vote!

10.) Update: Rufous Coffee
Fuxing S. Road Sec 2 #333 / 復興南路2段333號
02-2736-6880

I was tipped off about this place by another expat, and realized it's basically just down the road from where I work. Fuxing S. Road south of Heping and north of Xinhai boasts three coffeeshops and a tea shop. The first is Tiamore, which has good (but not the best) coffee, is a bit down-at-heel and boasts a bevy of semi-friendly cats - or at least they did, it seems the owners don't keep cats there anymore since my last visit. The final one is called Mono, and I haven't actually gotten coffee there yet, but they serve it in glasses, not cups, and there's a shy but sweet cat there. Their mint and pomelo tea is great and they do a good brownie with ice cream.

Update: read below re: Rufous's siphon brews, but really what you want to be getting at this place is an espresso drink. For a very mildly flavored coffee, try the honey and cinnamon latte. For a luxurious experience, try the Irish coffee (with real sweet foamed milk, not whipped cream, to cut the bitterness of the whiskey-flavored coffee below). For a hot or stressful (or hot and stressful) day, get the iced dark chocolate banana latte. Their cold brewed iced coffee is also fabulous.

Only just today I continued on to Rufous at this person's recommendation, and the coffee was pretty excellent (I had a syphon-brewed coffee from Panama). The atmosphere is completely different from Tiamore, where I go for a friendly, very 台neighborhood feel - Rufous is smaller, more upmarket, more expensive. No cats, but the coffee is better. I did find the Panama to be lacking some of the depth of the coffees I've tried at Shake House (see above) and Drop (also above) - especially both shops' Sumatra coffee, and the Kona at Drop, as well as the Nicaraguan coffee at Coffee Family Roaster. The Panama coffee - ordered because I don't see beans from Panama on menus very often - was roasted a bit darker than I like it, as well.  However, it was quite good, and I intend to go back and try not only the house blend but also ask them to make me a light roast coffee, and see what they can come up with.

11.) Gold Diamond Coffee (金鑽咖啡)
Zhonghe, Xinbei City, Liansheng Road #41
新北市中和區連勝街41號

About a 15 minute walk from MRT Jing'an (walk up Jinping Road and turn at Liansheng) and near the 262, 275 and various other bus routes, this place is a good bet if you're stuck in the wilds of Zhonghe. A good place to rest after a hike to Yuantong Temple or if you are otherwise in the area.

This tiny coffeeshop nestled among a huge slightly higher end apartment complex (but not inside it) on a quiet side street was a surprise find for me: I happen to know a family who lives in the complex - I play with their kids in English once a week (I'd be hard-pressed to call it a class as it's very non-traditional) and have gotten coffee here. The lattes are strong and flavorful, with lots of bold character, but the thing to get here is light roast drip coffee. I was blown away by what the guy made for me, and they have many choices of bean.

12.) Cafe Booday
Nanjing W. Road Lane 25 #18, 2nd floor above the shop (very close to MRT Zhongshan)

While the food at Booday didn't blow me away - the desserts were good, though - the one cup of Monsoon Malabar I had there was pretty delish. They have a selection of high-end coffees including this favorite of mine for approximately NT140 per cup. On the high end but not impossible, and your best choice among all the cafes in this area for a good cup of something comforting, caffeinated and well-made.

13.) Other places I haven't tried yet

There are a ton of places I haven't had the good fortune to drink coffee at, but are probably on par with the places listed above. There's an especially large number of cafes in the lanes around Yongkang Street, and some of my favorite places to drink beer also make pretty good coffee (not included here because I wanted to highlight the best of the best, but that doesn't mean they're not also good).



If you have a favorite stop for high-quality coffee - the kind you savor, not gulp - leave it in the comments!

You can also buy great beans to brew your own coffee at home at most of the places above, as well as at:


- 里仁: organic food store in Gongguan (go to Roosevelt Rd. Sec. 3 Lane 283, and it's just down the lane from So Free pizza) - you can buy organic coffee beans from southern Taiwan here - very flavorful!


If you want to brew South Indian or Thai/Vietnamese-style coffee (that is, coffee with chicory, and add condensed milk for Thai or Vietnamese or just tons of sugar and milk to make it Indian) go to Trinity Superstores and pick up a bag of "Bru". It's not "good" coffee in the yuppie sense but it is the real thing.