Notes On Taiwan

I arrived in Taipei late in the evening. I was to be staying with my friend Scott except he was away in Korea on a visa run. His friend Shufan had me come into the city and meet at her friends place. From there we walked to Scott's place where I would stay. Along the way we stopped off at a bar, once of Scott's favourites, and had a beer each. I had one of those Trappist ones that is predominately sugar and alcohol. By the time we'd finished our drinks we had whiled away the hours. It was now one in the morning. We continued our walk and with me safely inside, Shufan headed back into the night. It was at this point that I realised how safe Taipei felt. It was perfectly reasonable to go wandering the streets at night. As it should be.

I decided that I would not spend my time rushing about seeing this sight and that sight. I would take a different, slower tack. I did some research and found a couple of blogs on Taipei cafés and restaurants. The first morning I headed to the nearest listed café.

To find my way I’m using my phone’s GPS to navigate but I still manage to make a wrong turn. As I go to walk down a narrow lane, that I hope will connect to the street I want, I end up behind two Taiwanese, a man and a women, both in spiffy work clothing, iPhone’s out doing exactly the same thing. They end up at the same cafe as me. The cafe is bathed in light. The font part has been sealed off in glass and a sofa and two chairs have been tucked into the bay windows. All the tables are wooden boxes, there is wood everywhere and you can smell it. It is divine. Outside the window: flower boxes and pots; their inhabitants gently rocking in the breeze.

Cafe +

The coffee is average but their waffle menu was special: shredded raisons and rum custard, wild honey and lemon custard, peanut butter with maple syrup and pickled nut and we can’t forget cinnamon apple with brown sugar and vanilla ice cream.

The second café I went to was in the furthest reaches of the the city. The final stop on the red line. Now, most of these café visits took place on different days of the trip. I felt there was nothing to be gained by trying to visit them all in one day. Take my time; savour them. This café had a roasting machine in the corner and an old man was squat down on a stool observing it intensely. This man would later make my coffee.

It's a Chemex system and he lays out the various pieces of equipment. He shows me the freshly ground coffee and awaits my approval. He checks the water temperature and then, when it's not up to his standard, he dashes off to get some more: thermometer perfect. He pours some water into my cup to warm it up and then pours about half that amount into the ground coffee in the filter. He waits while it soaks up the water that has been put in. Then as the first drops start to come out the bottom of the filter we starts pouring more water in.

The rate of water added is slightly faster than the extracted rate but designed so that when he runs out of water, including the water in my cup. he has filled the filter to the top. It slowly drains down. When there is no more water to drip through he instructs me to wait one minute before I start but to wait no more than six minutes.

It's the best damn coffee I've had in a long time.

Damshui Café

The third stand out coffee place I visited was only a block from Scott's place. They roasted their own beans here too but didn't labour over the presentation of the coffee the same way as that old man from Damshui. This place was called Pegcoffee and was One Piece themed but didn't open until two in the afternoon. I'm a morning coffee drinker but I made an exception a few times for this place.

When it came to food, I had the best damn vegeburger I've ever had. As I walked into the place my thong slipped and I ripped a flapper on the front of my big toe. I hobbled in bleeding and put my order in. They patched me up with a first aid kit, served my beer and then the burger. It was outstanding in it's own right and probably not because of how it contrasted with the pain I was also feeling at the time. When I finished the beer they gave me another one. It turns out it was happy hour and two for one beers were on.

I also ate at the Michelin star dumpling house again. They have a branch in Taipei. I rate the one in Taipei more than the one in Honkers. The chilli sauce was of a higher quality. A dumpling place near Scott's that was as good as the Michelin star place. I'm glad it was towards the end of my stay that Scott showed me this place. I might not have explored knowing how good and close it was.

Dumplings and Pot Stickers

As a matter of fact, just about every meal I had in Taipei was outstanding. As was my host. Thanks Scotty.


when: Saturday, March 22, 2014