Field Trip: Savour Cafe

Information:  Xin Yi Road, Section 4, Number 115-2 | 台北市信義路四段115-2號 Tel: (02) 2701 2498| Hours: 11:30am-10pm

Recently, I stumbled upon this lovely cafe amidst the busy streets of Taipei. It’s located on a busy street corner, and it’s easy to miss because there is only a tiny discreet sign on the side of the building and on the front door.


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Savour Cafe is the size and shape of a shoebox, but I think that just adds to the coziness factor. The full length windows let in a lot of natural light, and the interior decor is simple, yet full of interesting details.

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Hello Hong Kong! LOG-ON, Midori Traveler’s Notebook Hong Kong Tramways Edition and Simply Life

Information: Simply Life  Shop A,C&D, G/F, 13-15 Cleveland Street, Fashion Walk, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong |銅鑼灣Fashion Walk加寧街13-15號地下A,C&D舖 | Log-On Fashion Walk, Level 1 Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.

When I was in Hong Kong, I made time to visit the Log-On Store to see the「Traveler’s notebook and Hong Kong Tramways」special edition. The Log-On store that carries this line is located in the Fashion Walk shopping complex, in Causeway Bay. (I went to the other Log On Store in Kowloon Tong, and they did not have them there)

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In case you are wondering, Log-On is a branch of City Super, which is a chain of grocery stores that sells a combination of local and imported products. I think the City Super chain originated in Hong Kong, and now there are several branches in Taiwan too.  In Hong Kong, Log-On houses all the lifestyle, homeware and stationery products and is in a completely separate section from the groceries. In Taipei, there is some stationery in the City Super Stores, but the layout is not very user friendly. It’s sort of squished in the same section as the sweets and personal care products.  While it’s convenient enough to do some impulse shopping, while you are popping in to buy milk or something, I think it would be better to have  a separate section just for stationery and lifestyle products.

Back to the Log-On store in Fashion Walk, which was really very pleasant to shop in. The layout of the store is clear, and there is plenty of space for you to browse. Naturally, the first thing to catch my eye was the washi tape display.

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The Traveler’s notebook and Hong Kong Tramways special edition display is located a little further into the store.

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I seriously wish it was my job to design these bulletin boards. Love everything on this board, and the way it was laid out. So many fun details.

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Field Trip: A Gift from Taiwan~spending the afternoon at Cha Cha Thé ~ 采采食茶的下午茶時光

My cousin and cousin in-law were in Taiwan for the Chinese New Year holidays a few weeks ago. Since they spend most of their time overseas, I wanted to take them somewhere special for afternoon tea.  The first place that popped into my mind was Cha Cha Thé, a gorgeous modern-day tea house with lovely decor and teas.

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I arrived a few minutes early, and had a chance to really soak in the decor and atmosphere. The luxuriously spacious interior consists of mostly subdued earth tones, combined with soft music, the atmosphere was serene and tranquil. You could easily spend pleasant swathes of time here, either in quiet conversation, or just reading on your own.

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One of the focal points of this room was that there was an entire wall constructed out of bricks of tea. It didn’t smell as fragrant as I imagined it would (yes! I took a quick sniff when I thought no one was looking… Good thing the wall wasn’t made out of chocolate bricks or I would have been seriously tempted to take a bite).

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I have to mention that the staff at Cha Cha Thé are super nice.  They seated me right away, even though I was early and my party at not yet arrived. She also poured me a full glass of water and waited I was sitting comfortably in my chair before placing the menu in front of me. The menu was also beautifully presented~ with a pretty cover and heavy card stock pages and clearly written in both English and Chinese.  There is a selection of teas listed on the menu are: Pekoe Green Tea, Shihchao Jinshuan, Lightly Roasted Oolong, Beipu Oriental Beauty, Dream of Fruit, Roast Tieguanyin, Darjeeling Black Tea, and the option for iced tea is Exquisite Alishan Oolong.

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Field Trip: Afternoon Tea at Smith & Hsu’s

One of my favorite places for afternoon tea in Taipei is at Smith & Hsu’s. Their tea selection is vast, with an eclectic sampling of both local and imported teas.  They also have some of the best scones I’ve ever tasted in Taiwan.  They have several branches in Taipei, and I usually go to the one in the Hankyu Department store, which is one of their smaller sized shops.

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Tea with me:“忙”果茶

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Over the Chinese New Year holiday, I finally had a good chunk of time to  sit back from the usual flurry and confusion of my everyday (work) life and do things I normally never have the time to do.  Such as wandering into the city for no purpose other than having afternoon tea at Smith and Hsu.  A spot of daydreaming, a pot of tea and a scone later,  I felt so refreshed and inspired that I wanted to recreate that feeling at home.

通常人家問我 “最近過的怎麼樣?” 我大部分都是回答 ”很忙” (然後心裡的話是 “拜託不要問我在忙什麼 因為一想 就覺得焦慮”) 放年假的時候 終於有比較長一段時間 坐下來 好好享受一杯自己泡的水果茶  也順道想一些有的沒的事情。那下午突然想起一位老師曾經跟我講了一句話 : “我都不會讓我自己太忙” 那時後我聽了 其實不太了解他的意思。 不是忙一點比較好嗎? 不是忙才對社會有貢獻嗎? 可是仔細思考了一段時間 發覺其實我很多的忙是自找的。 有時候真的是 “盲”  跟 “茫” 不是真正的 “忙”  常常感覺被工作壓力 跟生活一些瑣碎的事緊緊的纏繞的 喘不過氣。

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Field Trip: Dami Cafe (來水木喝咖啡)

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Dami Coffee
水木咖啡

It’s always hard to find your new “favorite” coffee shop when you have moved to a new neighborhood.  Two years ago, I found Dami Cafe about a week after I moved into town, and started my new job.  The owner, Dami, was the first person I had a conversation with, outside of work.  He was also new to the area, and had just opened up shop a few weeks earlier.  I remember I ordered a latte on my first visit.  Why do I remember it so vividly? Well, two reasons really. One, because I always drink lattes.  Two, because I left without paying for it.  Halfway through the latte, I was called back into work for a meeting.  During the meeting, it dawned on me that I had left the cafe without paying my bill.  I spent the rest of the meeting on edge, thinking about my criminal behavior.  When the meeting was (finally) over, I walked back to Dami’s. The second I walked into the shop, he started laughing.  He said “I knew you would be back!”     And he was right. This cafe became one of my favorite places to drink coffee, my mobile office, and my extended living room.

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兩年前是第一次來到水木咖啡   到現在印象都還很深刻。第一, 是我來到新竹喝到最好喝的 Latte,  第二, 是我人生第一次喝了霸王咖啡。 我還記得那一天 我剛好在學校的書店 在買文具的過程 聞到很香的咖啡味。 我 “followed my nose”  找到了水木咖啡。 老闆跟我一樣, 剛來新竹  店也剛開始營業。 聊著 聊著 突然接到辦公室的電話, 要我回去開會。 我就匆匆忙忙的離開了。 開會中, 才發覺我既然 忘。了。付。錢!!!  天啊。   後來回咖啡店的時候, 老闆笑著說, 我知道你會回來的” 我好奇的問他 “你怎麼知道?” 他回我說 “有緣分就會回來”

For the past two years, Dami’s cafe has been located inside National Tsing Hua University’s campus bookstore.  When you walk towards the building from the front campus gates, you can see the lights twinkling inside from a distance, welcoming you from afar.

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The cafe is small and cozy, and most of the activity happens around the coffee bar.   This is where everyone hangs out to talk to Dami about coffee, and life, in general.

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All the beans are roasted daily,  in-house by Dami.

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Dami roasting coffee beansThe beans arrive in huge burlap sacks, and Dami picks them over three times, to ensure that only the best beans are selected to be roasted.

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Green coffee beans —–> Roasted coffee beans

This meticulous attention to detail results in some pretty amazing coffee. (I know, true coffee connoisseurs drink their coffee without milk, but I can’t do it. Call me an impostor, if you will).

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Iced Cappuccino

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In addition to serving up a variety of coffees, teas and juices, Dami also serves homemade vegetarian dumplings made by his mother.  His mother selects all the ingredients for her dumplings with the greatest of care.

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Dami’s mother’s homemade vegetarian dumplings

Each dumping is filled to bursting with six different kinds of chopped vegetables and is lightly flavored with fresh ginger and sesame oil. 誰說咖啡跟餃子不配? 其實吃完老闆媽媽親手包的味道清爽,又有營養的素餃子, 再喝一杯濃郁的咖啡 會讓你整天都很滿足的感覺。

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You might be wondering, what are are dumplings doing  on a cafe menu? But as soon as you are absorbed into the atmosphere of this cafe, you will realize that there is nothing that goes better with this coffee.  Both dumplings and coffee are created with quiet determination, with only the best, freshest and healthiest ingredients.  With each bite and sip, you will realize that both Dami and his mother consider their customer not as an anonymous person, but as a friend of their family.

我平常生活是忙碌的, 總是有一堆做不完,“應該” 要做的事情。可是每次來到水木喝咖啡會讓我暫時把生活的步調放慢,享受當下的 moments.  Dami 每次看我慌慌張張, 急急忙忙的, 都會說 ”慢慢來最快“  我一直覺得這句話很有道理。 按步就班   一步一步的,是最踏實, 有效率的方式。

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At the time of posting, Dami’s Cafe has closed down, because he is going abroad to follow his dreams of learning more about coffee.  Do not despair, he will be back in Taiwan after a year, filled with new ideas and recipes to share.   老闆最近要出國經修 追求夢想 一年以後會回台灣繼續的跟大家分享好喝的咖啡!

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Field Trip: VVG Thinking

My first experience at the  VVG (which stands for Very, Very, Good)  group of restaurants was brunch at VVG Bistro.  I remember being charmed by the eclectic flea-market finds atmosphere, and I was inspired by the creative presentation of the food.  I recently found out that they had added quite a few new restaurants, including one called VVG Thinking.  I decided to visit on a Friday afternoon, after suffering from a particularly severe case of writers block (and job fatigue).   My usual cure for such malaises is to use coffee and dessert as treatment options.

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VVG Thinking is tucked into a quiet corner of Hua-Shan Creative Park, away from the general hustle and bustle.  I got a little lost trying to find the “brick building” area of the park, and in between being jostled by excited elementary school children wearing matching T-shirts, (also on a field trip) and the suffocating humidity, my nerves were more than a bit frazzled by the time I happened upon the brick building that housed VVG Thinking.

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The cavernous brick interior is adorned with wacky chandeliers, and mismatched wooden furniture, and fronds of greenery.  I was led to a window  table in a quiet corner. The generously sized tables at VVG Thinking are spaced just the right distance apart:  close enough for unobtrusive  people watching and far enough so you can hear just murmurs of their conversation. Based on my previous experience at VVG Bistro, I was tempted to order a few different desserts just to see the presentation.  My rationality returned after a few minutes away, and I settled on just one dessert, a the mixed berry compote cheesecake, accompanied by a berry flavored tea. The tea arrived first, served in a mason jar mug, atop a brown leather coaster.  The tea’s flavor was just the right balance of sweet and sour.

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The cheesecake arrived a few minutes later, and I was surprised to find that it came in a glass, instead of a plate. I was expecting the usual triangle of cheese + crust+ berry compote topping combination.

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Instead, the cheesecake arrived in short, squat oval glass container, accompanied by a cute silver shovel-shaped spoon.                                                                           

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Mixed Berry Cheesecake Anatomy

After digging into the dessert, I discovered that it was sort of like an inverted cheesecake.  Instead of the usually buttery crust on the bottom, this crust was reinterpreted into a crunchy topping, slightly tinged with the flavor of cinnamon and perhaps a touch of ginger.  The mascarpone filling had a light lemon flavor, and went well with both the berry compote and topping. In addition to being a  visually cute shape, it turns out the spoon was the perfect implement for eating this dessert. The spoon neck is the perfect length to dig through all three layers of the cake, and the bowl of the spoon fits just the right size mouthful of crunchy, velvety, sweet and sour filling.

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After finishing my dessert, I wandered to the shop upstairs, where I was excited to find an entire floor of  books, kitchenware, clothing and stationery supplies.

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All the merchandise is interspersed with fun knickknacks, like hippos, polar bears, felt animals and vintage typewriters.

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There were so many items that I never knew that I wanted until seeing them there. Suddenly,  it seemed like I really needed some gorgeous white enamel flatware and matching canisters…

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Or just a few pieces of Japanese ceramics and a shiny green teapot.

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In the end, after about an hour of undisturbed browsing, I couldn’t resist buying  two miniature cake tins.

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The sales assistant was lively and engaging, and she was well-informed about all the origins and details of the products on the floor. She even asked me about  what kind of cakes I was planning on baking (vanilla bean bundt cake!) while she was carefully wrapping up my purchases into a dark brown paper bag, sealed with a matching piece of Washi Tape. Overall,  VVG Thinking was a delightful place for a field trip.  First and foremost, it’s a place that’s visually interesting.  The high ceilings and pleasant lighting make it one of the more serene places to be on a Friday afternoon in Taipei.  The staff were friendly and attentive, but mostly left me alone to eat and daydream and browse in peace.  So if your brain is feeling tired and overworked, allow it to wander over to VVG table for some inspiration.

Information: VVG Thinking   Address: Huashan 1914 Cultural & Creative Park |MRT: Zhongxiao Xingsheng Station|Phone:  (02) 2322-5573 | 華山文創產業區   紅磚六合院 C 棟 (杭州北路 X 北平東路口)

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