It was pure coincidence that my friends and I chanced upon Fong Da Coffee (蜂大咖啡) on our last morning at Taipei, Taiwan. It was only much later that I realized we have actually stumbled upon one of Taipei’s original coffee shops. Established in 1956, Fong Da is located in the popular Ximending area and operates as a cafe, roastery and retail front for quality coffee beans. It is particularly famous for introducing iced coffee to the people of Taipei. It doesn’t sound so amazing to us today but their daring move of serving coffee cold was supposedly quite a phenomenon then.
Despite the invention of modern coffee roasters and machines, Fong Da still chooses to use its vintage equipment and retains much of its 1950’s technology heritage. Customers also enjoy a wide variety of beans to choose from. The permutation works out to at least twelve different blends available for both retail sales and dine in.
This cosy coffee shop caters for all sorts of patrons. If you are on your own, rushing for work and need a quick breakfast or morning perk me up, you can simply drop by their ‘bar counter’.
Else you can take a seat on the ground floor or upper deck and enjoy a relaxing morning chit-chat over their breakfast set.
Unlike the usual Taiwanese cafes, the older staffs here are more task-oriented than customers focused. Their service was also not as warm as the younger Taiwanese. I wonder if the coffee shop environment made them feel less happy to work there, or if their work was so mundane and back-breaking they just wanted to get the workday over and done with.
The memory of watching them working dispassionately reminded me of a story I read in the news recently on how our local post office helped older workers to have an easier job of sorting letters using this thing called an Ezytrolley that’s supposed to reduce physical exertion. SingPost also bought 3-wheel motorbikes (although twice as expensive as 2-wheel motorbikes), in consideration of the safety of their older deliverymen.
While waiting for our breakfast set to be served, I took off to check out some of the antique caffeine instruments in the coffee shop.
While you are at the shop, you cannot miss the meter tall iced coffee maker. The entire apparatus is made up of three glass compartments within which ice melts and drips onto the ground coffee. One can only get four cups every six hours. What a tough wait for good coffee. I wonder how difficult it is for the staff to refill the tall coffee maker.
We only had the basic black coffee as part of the breakfast set. We would have ordered their famous iced coffee if we found out about their reputation then.
To be honest, I never had a liking for such a plain breakfast – just a slice of bread with butter and jam. But I am surprisingly at ease with this simple fare in the distinctive old world charm setting.
The accompanying eggs & ham managed to cheer us up a little at the end of a wonderful holiday.
I understand that the coffee shop prides itself on its rich heritage and brew traditions but that does not necessary mean closing an eye to opportunities where they can make tasks more enjoyable for their staffs. It is easy to see that the coffee shop managers were not aware of how age-unfriendly their shop operations are. Back in Singapore, the unions are encouraging companies to have age-friendly practices (like SingPost) so that older workers can work easier, smarter and safer. I wonder if Taiwanese unions can do the same for Fong Da Coffee staff.
If you loved the good old fashion coffee shop scene from the 1950’s and adores good quality coffee, you should make it a point to visit Fong Da Coffee. But besides ordering the breakfast set, remember to also try their famous iced coffee. I hope by the time you visit, you will be served by a happier group of staffs. Here are the full information:
Fong Da Coffee (蜂大咖啡)
English Address: No. 42, ChengDou Road, Wanhua District, Taipei, Taiwan
Chinese Address: 108 臺北市萬華區成都路42號 電話:02-2371-9577
You may also like to check out my posts on other exciting travel destinations here