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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The Early Bird Gets the Worm! Stationery Flash Sale Shopping Spree Experience at Books.com.tw

Living in Taiwan has a very important perk. What is that, you may ask? Is it the convenience factor? Yes. The great food? Yes. The great desserts? Yes, yes! But another absolutely delightful perk is the wonderful array of stationery that is available, any time, anywhere. If you like lovingly curated stores, then my friend Tiger’s Plain Stationery is perfect for you. But, occasionally, if you want to shop at home, in your pyjamas in the dead of the night, or in the wee hours of the morning, then there is no better site to do it than on Books.com.tw.  I would equate books.com.tw to Taiwan’s version of Amazon; similarly it is a vast website filled with books, lifestyle products, electronics, clothing, homeware and also stationery.  One wee morning, I received a message from my friend Peggy, who said told me they were having a gigantic sale, and that items were up to 90% off.  I threw down my phone, rushed to my computer and that was when the madness began.  I clicked, I panicked, I rejoiced, I was disappointed, then elated again, and I put items in my cart, and sent in my order in less than 30 minutes.  Competition was fierce. It seems like all of Taiwan was competing with me for those Moleskine notebooks and Cavallini stamps! Afterwards, I couldn’t remember exactly what I bought, but I recall that I really needed everything that I put in my cart.  😀

The order was processed and sent in 24 hours. I was sort of surprised when I went to pick up the boxes… two boxes?! And one of them was so heavy that I had to put them down on a stoop to rest.

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Ta-da! As my friend Carol says, shopping of this magnitude can only be described with one word. Haul. And she is absolutely right. This was a stationery haul. Except for the regular sized Traveler’s notebook, which was about 40% off, the rest of the items were about 70-90% off their retail price.

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前幾天收到 Peggy 的訊息說 博客來文具在打折!!! 我立刻馬上right now 現在的衝到電腦前面開始了瘋狂的 shopping frenzy.  不到半個小時很有效率的買完一些喜歡,使用的文具。 買完的時候, 跟 Peggy 說, 這是史上在博客來買文具最爽的一次! 大家來看看我的開箱文吧!

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Product Discovery: Yong Le Fabric Market Part 3~ The Ribbon Roundup!

The upcoming holiday season has reminded me of my love of ribbons. Ribbons have always been a weakness of mine. I have a habit of saving every pretty ribbon that comes my way, and I can never resist a pretty ribbon on sale.  There are quite a few places to shop for ribbon in Taipei; you can buy them in bookstores, such as Eslite (the Xinyi and Songyan branches both have nicely curated selections) and of course you can buy them at VVG Chiffon. However, ultimately, the place where you will be most spoiled for selection is in the Yong-Le Market area.

For this post, I’m going to introduce three of my favorite shops, where I buy most of my ribbon. They are all located within minutes of the Yong-Le Market building.  (It’s hard for me to give directions, but I’ll include either the shop sign, or the business card, which you can use as a point of reference) I’ll also include a “best finds” explanation for each store, so it’s easier to narrow down your shopping choices. (in case want a more focused shopping experience)

Just a quite FYI before I begin: Most of these stores only accept cash, so make sure you have plenty on hand before you arrive. Based on personal experience, I try to have a handful of small bills and change, which makes the buying process a whole lot smoother.

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Field Trip: MT Expo (washi tape) in Taipei 2014~ 2O14mt博海外首展在台北 [Updated!]

As all of you may know from my blog posts here and over at my Instagram, I’m crazy about washi tape.  My love for washi tape knows no bounds, and I incorporate it into my daily life whenever and wherever I can.  So, I was thrilled to learn back in August that one of my favorite brands of Japanese washi tape, MT was putting on their first major exhibit overseas right here in Taipei!

A few days before the beginning of the MT Expo in Taipei, the organizers brought out this adorable video on YouTube.

Wow, from the video, it really looks pretty crowded… but I’m happy to report that I did not experience those crowds at all.  I visited a few days after the grand opening, and everything was a lot calmer then.  If you are in Taipei, the exhibit is open until November 16th.

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A lot of people don’t really understand my washi tape obsession.  I’m often met with a puzzled expression and the words “it’s just tape?”  Sigh. It’s not just pretty tape.  (Although, it’s perfectly acceptable to like something just because it’s decorative) However, washi tape is a perfectly functional tool.  While not all brands are created equal, the tapes by MT are actually pretty durable.  They are waterproof, reusable, and can be stuck firmly to a variety of surfaces.   I personally think that if adding a bit of tape to a otherwise mundane surface can make it more cheerful looking, then why not?  For example, MT tape was able to transform a fairly glum concrete redistribution center into a colorful exhibition ground.   Even an ordinary city bus looks much more inviting with covered with swaths of multi-color tape.

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If my car ever needs a new color, I’m going to skip paint and just cover it from bumper to bumper in washi tape instead!

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Anyway, onto the Expo! The Expo is located inside an old warehouse/distribution type of building.  There is plenty of  wall space and floor space to display all the washi tape.

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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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