Taiwan Coffee: Guide To The Best Taiwanese Beans
Taiwan is a beautiful island in East Asia and a home to many types of coffee. It’s characterised by high-altitude, volcanic lands of Yunlin County and dense forests in high mountains of Pingtung County. Taiwan for sure is not a coffee powerhouse. But you’ll find some great internationally renowned varieties from small businesses operating in the regions of Alishan, Nantaou Guoxing, and Yunlin.
This article explores Taiwan coffee with a guide to the best Taiwanese beans.
At A Glance:
- THE MOST BALANCED: The Formosa Coffee
- THE MOST EXPENSIVE: Dou Coffee
- THE MOST CALMING: Republica Coffee Roasters
A Complete Guide To The Taiwanese Coffee Region
This guide looks at the history of coffee in Taiwan. You’ll learn more about how coffee production started here, which regions grow coffee, the main varietals grown and processing methods. We’ll also touch upon the current state of the coffee culture in Taiwan.
Taiwan wasn’t always considered a coffee region, and coffee isn’t native to the area. The first coffee seedlings were imported from Hawaii during the Japanese occupation over 100 years ago (1). But, specialty coffee is even more recent, according to local barista Tristan Wang.
In the late 1990s, espresso-based coffee beverages became a new wave, mainly due to Starbucks. Around a decade ago, people started to learn about specialty coffee.
Coffee has come a long way in Taiwan since being seen as just a rare and exportable luxury crop solely for the emperor of Japan. Taiwan grows over 800 tonnes of coffee annually, enough to meet 15% of domestic demand. The rest is imported from around the world to meet coffee consumption needs.
The primary counties responsible for growing coffee in Taiwan are Alishan, Pingtung, Tainan, and Yunlin. These mountainous areas offer the ideal conditions for growing coffee – higher altitudes, colder climates, volcanic soils, and luscious forest lands.
Coffee farms in Taiwan grow almost exclusively Arabica coffee, though some individual farmers have Robusta and Liberica plants (2). The most common coffee varietals cultivated in Taiwan are Bourbon, Catimor, Catuai, Caturra, Typica, and Geisha. For a coffee-producing country that doesn’t come close to rivalling other coffee powerhouses around the world in terms of volume, Taiwan thrives on its diversity of varietal offerings.
Most of the coffee produced on this island is wash processed. However, coffee grown at lower altitudes is more often naturally processed to enhance its inherent sweetness. In recent years, honey processing has become more popular as well.
Although Taiwan only cultivates coffee at a small scale relative to coffee-growing powerhouse coffee regions worldwide, the island still embraces a lively coffee culture. Most coffee grown on the island is consumed domestically, and farmers often interact directly with consumers, says Joe Hsu of Orsir Coffee in Taiwan.
After processing, Taiwanese coffee is usually sold domestically. It can be sold either as green [beans] or roasted. Some of the farmers own small coffee shops from where they do their selling.
Events like the Taiwan International Coffee Show Festival are held to promote awareness for Taiwanese coffee farmers and help develop local coffee production. The Specialty Coffee Association, in tandem with the Taiwan Coffee Association, has announced that in 2023, Taipei will host the World Latte Art Championship, the World Coffee Good Spirits Championship, and the World Coffee Roasting Championship (3).
Taiwanese Coffee Reviews: The 3 Best Taiwanese Coffees In 2023
Home Grounds has compiled a review of the best Taiwanese coffees in 2023. Hint: some coffees rival high-quality coffees from more prominent growing regions. We have looked into the recommended roast levels, tasting notes, and available grind types for these coffees.
1. The Formosa Coffee – The Most Balanced
Roast level: Light, Medium, Dark
- Tasting notes: Acidic, Balanced, Fruity, Smooth, Sweet
- Grind: Ground, Whole Bean
Balance your mind and body with a brew made from Formosa Coffee Authentic Taiwanese coffee beans. Formosa Coffee is a #1-rated specialty coffee roaster based in New York. It sources and roasts naturally processed, single-origin Arabica coffee beans from Yunlin, Taiwan. The result is a smooth and sweet cup with a delectable velvety texture and no bitterness.
This coffee grows at high altitudes with cool temperatures in nutrient-dense volcanic soils nourished with pristine spring water.
This coffee arrives in New York fresh from Taiwan and is roasted within a day of arrival.
What makes it the most balanced? After harvest, these coffee beans are sun-dried for up to two weeks with their outer fruit layer intact, allowing them to absorb the fruit’s flavour. The result is a robust and balanced flavour profile with complimentary notes of acidity and natural fruit sweetness.
2. Dou Coffee – The Most Expensive
Roast level: Light
- Tasting notes: Chamomile, Honey, Pineapple, Winey
- Grind: Whole Bean
Dou Coffee from the Nantou Guoxing Township region in Taiwan has a rich history and an even richer price tag. I’m not exaggerating: one bag of 225 g costs nearly fifteen hundred dollars!
Coffee cultivation serves a vital purpose in this area following a devastating earthquake in 1999 that caused intense soil erosion. This coffee isn’t just your morning life saver; it literally saved an entire region of Taiwan thanks to government investment.
Owned and operated by one determined coffee-loving owner, Dou Coffee has won numerous local blind tastings for its high-quality honey processed Arabica beans. The flavours to note in this light roasted coffee are chamomile, pineapple, honey, and winey.
3. Republica Coffee Roasters – The Most Calming
Roast level: Medium
- Tasting notes: Floral, Sweet
- Grind: Whole Bean (Unroasted)
If you’re looking for a more mindful coffee-drinking experience – or perhaps you’re more of a tea person who is curious about coffee – then the Republica Coffee Roasters’ 100% Arabica coffee beans from Alishan, Taiwan, are for you. Despite being coffee, they capture the fragrance of Taiwanese tea.
These green coffee beans come unroasted, so they are perfect for those who want to try their hand at home roasting to get the freshest possible Taiwanese specialty coffee. If you don’t have a roaster, don’t sweat it. Roasting in the oven, microwave, or by hand on a stovetop are all viable options.
Store the coffee in an air-tight sealed container 24 hours after roasting it to retain its freshness.
These beans make a delightful medium roasted coffee with nutty notes and low acidity. The coffee plants in this region are grown under the shade of betel nut trees. The floral smell is delightful, the cane sugar is super sweet, and the lasting aftertaste conjures up the sensory experiences you’d find standing at the top of a mountain.
Our Tawainese coffee picks span from Yunlin County to Nantou Guoxing to Alishan. The Formosa Coffee is the most balanced, Dou Coffee is the most expensive, and Republica Coffee Roasters is the most calming. From light to dark roast options, and with flavour notes ranging from fruity to winey to sweet, you’re sure to find one Taiwanese coffee to your liking.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of coffee shops in Taiwan, although the statistics dispute the exact numbers. The Taipei Economic and Trade Office reports a minimum of 15,000 coffee shops, which has more than doubled in the last decade.
Chinese coffee is usually of the Catimor variety, grown by coffee farmers from the Yunnan region. The local coffee industry is rising in China and could be the next big thing for the coffee market in 2023. The best roasted coffee beans from this area yield brews with a creamy texture and interesting flavours of sweet fruits, ranging from pomegranate to pear to black cherry.
Indian coffee has long been associated with Robusta beans and espresso blends. However, they’ve expanded into producing high-quality Arabica beverages. You’ll find flavours ranging from a light acidity to a deeper earthiness. Check out our article for some of the best coffee beans in India to try.
- Gakuo, P. (2022, February 17). A guide to the Taiwanese coffee sector. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2022/02/a-guide-to-the-taiwanese-coffee-sector/
- Haime, J. (2022, August 17). Can a New Bean Make Taiwan’s Coffee Industry Boom? Retrieved from https://topics.amcham.com.tw/2022/08/can-a-new-bean-make-taiwans-coffee-industry-boom/
- Specialty Coffee Association. (2022, July 12). Announcing the 2023 Taipei World Coffee Championships. Retrieved November 14, 2022, from https://sca.coffee/sca-news/2022/7/12/announcing-the-2023-taipei-world-coffee-championships