The Lovely Coffee Shops of Taipei

Meet some of the cafés that are bolstering the growing specialty-coffee scene in Taiwan’s diverse and beautiful capital.

BY MICHAELA TOMCHEK
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE

Photos by Michaela Tomchek

The small island nation of Taiwan is rich with lush vegetation and known for its tea production. Its people have immigrated from all over East Asia, creating a melting pot. This is especially true of Taipei, where the city’s specialty scene is blossoming.

Coffee’s Growth in Taipei

Since most of the country’s export value is based on technology, coffee and tea production are a small fraction of Taiwan’s producing power. Tea makes up 0.01% of its export values, worth roughly $101 million. Coffee production is not even close to that size, the whole country producing small quantities, mostly consumed domestically. Mostly, coffee is imported, and this has only been growing in recent years, which has led to the explosion of some exceptional specialty-coffee shops.

Yet are Taiwanese locals drinking the excellent coffee grown within their country? What coffees are being served at specialty shops? Let’s delve into the unique world of specialty coffee in Taipei to learn more.   

KiOSK’s owner serves specialty coffee solo for an intimate experience in the Zhongshan District.

KiOSK

After visiting Taipei’s famous Jianguo Holiday Flower Market to gaze at orchids, hop on an MRT or walk over to KiOSK for a truly exceptional coffee in the Zhongshan District. The shop’s owner Phil works solo, welcoming you in as you enter the beautiful café. The menu, black and white, presents his various offerings including coffee beans from all over the world (no Taiwanese coffee is offered here). The simple décor provides an idyllic setting to read and gaze out the large windows.

Phil was influenced during his five years living in London, and decided to open his own shop in Taiwan, calling it Flat White. The shop remained open for three years, but closed due to the ending of a lease. This led Phil to open KiOSK to brew and serve coffee in a more relaxed and refined atmosphere. The navy-blue exterior makes this an appealing place to take photos, which many do whilst they sip on coffee.

Coffee To serves Taiwanese coffee inside the National Centre of Photography and Images.

Coffee To

If you want to find Taiwanese coffee, roasted beautifully, then look no further. Coffee To is a special spot in Taipei, tucked inside the National Centre of Photography and Images. They serve coffee roasted by sister company Café Sole. As soon as you enter the café, you feel its perfection. Situated within a small indoor artisan market, with high ceilings, a long bench with delicate tables, and a gorgeous brew bar, it is quite calming. There is a wide range of coffees to choose from, roasted by the owner on a ROEST machine in small batches. You can even try something from a different country if you prefer.

Mr. Lance, the owner of the roastery and café, mentions that “specialty coffee has been developing in Taiwan for decades.” He also notes that the demand for high-quality tea has been falling, which has led to the rise in demand for specialty coffee. Yet, locals typically select coffee from other origins, as it is the cheaper option. However, according to Mr. Lance, “more and more coffee shops are offering Taiwanese coffee,” and the demand from the local coffee drinkers is also increasing, thus allowing for more support to be given to the many exceptional coffee farmers in Taiwan.

At Coffee To, each coffee is carefully brewed, prepared, steamed, or iced and served to you by a dignified barista, the pourovers coming with a small card explaining the coffee and where it comes from. On a rainy and cool day, this is the perfect spot to escape to, enjoying one or two coffees, perhaps indulging in something sweet, and gazing up at the wondrous light fixtures.

Try a pourover or strong cold brew to enjoy outdoors at Summer Savage.

Summer Savage

When wandering through the eccentric streets of Taipei, perhaps after having a hot pot or some dim sum, you will stumble upon the Summer Savage stand in the Zhongshan District. Small wooden stools are placed outside for the coffee drinkers wishing to relax outside the shop. The baristas are friendly and welcoming with plenty of excellent coffee to offer. The wood exterior stands out on this quiet residential street, giving off an almost Japanese feel and style.

Amongst the array of beverages, there is always a great pourover menu at Summer Savage, and they are happy to brew in the small space. You can also get various espresso drinks, tea, and special lattes, including the Brown Sugar Latte. The cold brew is strong and brewed to perfection. Summer Savage knows how to brew and serve coffee in this unique café—it is indeed a must-visit spot in Taipei.

Simple Kaffa was founded by World Barista Champ Wu Zelin, also known as Berg Wu. Their Super Kiosk is a great way to try their excellent brews in a relaxed setting.

Simple Kaffa

If you are craving an extremely perfected and beautiful coffee experience in Taipei, you must make a reservation at Simple Kaffa. Started by 2016 World Barista Champion Wu Zelin, or Berg Wu, Simple Kaffa’s first shop opened in the Taipei East District in 2011. He was eager to show his love for coffee, and this became a place for people to learn and taste specialty coffee in Taiwan. They now have seven stores, each with a unique experience catered to the coffee drinker. The Huashan flagship store is still bustling with visitors, who indulge in a pourover, a sweet latte, and an assortment of beautiful cakes.

For another remarkable experience, one must reserve a space at the Coffee One in the Daan District within the restored Japanese Rongjin Time Life Park. The old brick exterior does indeed look like a historic Japanese home, with lush vegetation and plants welcoming you. A reservation is needed to drink coffee here, and a minimum payment of NT$1000 (approximately $31 USD). Only coffee is served, with a light pairing of cakes and pastries. A barista will brew the coffee directly next to your table—a magical experience, indeed. You can have a similar experience in the Simple Kaffa location in the Taipei 101, towering over the city, sipping a coffee, and snacking on a cake. A minimum drink charge is required to indulge in this heavenly experience.

If you would like to taste some of Simple Kaffa’s coffee without the full-on experience, you can visit any of their other stores, like the Super Kiosk, for a beverage to go. Each shop has an eye for perfection and high-quality coffee.

Powder Coffee Roasters offers fresh-roasted beans from around the world, served with Scandinavian ambiance.

Powder Coffee Roasters

Head deep into the Zhongshan District, down a quiet road with parked motorbikes resting outside the buildings, and you will run into Powder Coffee Roasters. The simple exterior exudes grace, yet you might miss the shop as the sign is so delicate and hidden. When you enter, the aesthetic and wooden furniture are so sleek and Scandinavian-like. It is romantic and intimate here, and simply stunning. Order from the array of coffees offered. There is nothing from Taiwan here, yet the Americanos are smooth, served in thick white ceramic cups.

A popular item here is the sandwich, perfect to go with your coffee before heading out to your day. You can order either an egg salad or red bean spread on a baguette. The owner roasts all of his coffees, and offers beans from Ethiopia, Costa Rica, and Colombia, amongst others. It’s a lovely and quiet spot, run with elegance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Michaela Tomchek finds coffee an important part of life and the world. She is an appreciator of the crop, the producer, and the many cafés throughout the world serving beautiful beverages. Currently, she writes about coffee, hoping to spread her joy across the globe. 

Cover of June + July 2024 issue of Barista Magazine featuring Mikael Jasin of Indonesia.

Subscribe and More!

Out now: It’s the June + July 2024 issue of Barista Magazine! Read it for free with our digital edition. And for more than three years’ worth of issues, visit our digital edition archives here.

You can order a hard copy of the magazine through our online store here, or start a subscription for one year or two.

About baristamagazine 2134 Articles
Barista Magazine is the leading trade magazine in the world for the professional coffee community.