It’s Monday morning, 8:00am. You’ve just rolled out of bed and you’ve spent the past 30 minutes haphazardly stumbling around your house as you prepare for your seemingly endless workweek. Then, you step outside and it hits you, “I could really go for a cup of coffee”. Does this sound familiar to you?
As the years pass, Taipei becomes more and more international, bringing many new and exciting things to the city. For people who have lived here for a long time, perhaps one of the most obvious changes we can see is the growth of coffee.
A half century ago, coffee was seen as an international product nearly impossible to acquire in Taiwan. Even as the first coffee shops started to emerge, they brought with them the stigma that drinking coffee was something for the rich and trendy. This was the case in Taipei for a long time. Even in 1999, the import of raw coffee beans was less than 5,000 tons per year.
However, by 2010 that number of imported beans was just short of 18,000 tons. The spectrum of quality In present day Taipei, there are basically 4 major divisions in the coffee industry with a considerable difference in quality: specialty shops, small cafes, chain stores and convenience stores.
No doubt, you can get amazing brewed coffee and espresso in Taipei if you go to the right places. Some shops have expert baristas who have dedicated their lives to their craft. And if you want to buy beans, you can choose from a huge number of blends and get them ground to suit your needs whether you use a French Press or a Japanese Siphon . You can also easily get a great cup of brew from one of the many cafes. However, good coffee usually comes with a price tag of over NT$100 Of course buying a bag of beans and brewing it yourself will get the best results for the best price.
Instead of spending NT$40-150 on coffee every day, you can get a bag of fresh beans starting at NT$300. With about 30 brews, that boils down to NT$10 per cup, and it tastes great.
Some of the best places to buy beans in Taipei include:
Established in 1956, Fong Da Coffee is on of the most famous coffee places in Ximending and has an amazing assortment of beans and brewing devices.
A small little shop sitting in an alley near Shida (師大), Coffee Garden may not have a lot, but for what it lacks, it makes up for it in quality. A one man operation, the owner will tell you all about his blends and the intricacies of his coffee.
One of the most recognizable coffee shops coming out of the City Hall MRT station (市政府), this small cafe is widely regarded as one of the best, and it’s well known for selling great beans as well.
A large coffee shop with two levels of beans, brewing machines and tons of other coffee related items, there aren’t places in Taipei much better than this for getting everything you need in one spot.
Yemending Coffee (也門町) (Now Called Belle Epoque)
Also located in Ximending on the corner of the Taipei Cinema Park, this cafe is a antique-modern space with a huge outdoor seating area and a retro-stylized indoors. Keeping with its artsy theme, the cafe projects movies on to the wall for customers to passively observe as they enjoy their brunch and coffee.
Probably the most successful coffee shop in Taiwan, OKLao is known for controlling the process of its entire supply chain, only bringing in what it deems as the best coffee from all around the world. With a number of locations, lots of beans, a variety of brewing equipment, and coffee for NT$25 a cup, it’s hard to beat.
Our 5 Favorite Cafes
With the number of cafes around Taipei, it isn’t hard to find a good place to grab a caramel macchiato or whatever else you might be craving, but if you want to check out a new place, here are 5 of our favorites in no particular order:
An intimate 1920’s style design down a quiet alley in Shida (師大) and an extreme attention to detail, Chamber Coffee only sells premium coffee for true connoisseurs of the brew. No cream or sugar here, you will have your coffee black and brewed to perfection. You can choose from the traditional espresso style coffee with a choice of rich, dark beans or go with a Japanese Ice Drip coffee that has a savory, almost chocolate-like flavor. Smooth Jazz, a comfortable atmosphere and a completely unique experience.
The epitome of simple and creative design, this cool little cafe is located all the way up in Tianmu (天目). With fresh, clean food and a very nice list of beverages, Topo was opened by a designer and his sister who wanted to create a relaxing spot to chill, along with a out-of-the-ordinary atmosphere. With a fish pond that runs in-and-out of the cafe, hand-painted murals and great food, this is one of the coolest little cafes you will see in Taipei.
A sizable cafe in Ximending (西門町), The Aroma isn’t the typical sleek cafe you see around Taipei. Instead, its cozy “faith” inspired design is more similar to that of small-town America. However, the quality is nearly unbeatable. Using only “fair trade” organic beans, the baristas brew up some amazing-tasting blends. Also, it is the only place we know of with honest-to-goodness real American muffins, and they are ridiculously good.
Ok ok, Bigtom is actually an ice-cream shop (with some of the best-tasting ice-cream you can get in Taiwan), but the special coffee brews and scenery are more than enough to check this place out. Located within the SYS Memorial grounds, this cafe has outdoor seating right next to the park’s pond. And the coffee beans that are specially picked and sold at Bigtom are very good, despite the lack of variety.
A coffee paradise for students and the workforce alike, 5 senses is a huge cafe located across from TaiDa (台大). It’s fully modern style and two levels offer lots of roomy seating, and the decor (including Star Wars memorabilia) makes for an interesting experience. The hand made snack foods are prepared really well considering what it is, and the variety of well-mixed drinks is extensive.
We love our coffee and always like hearing about new places to go. What’s your favorite cafe(s) in Taipei and why? Let us know in the comments below!