Taipei: 8 Uniquely Taiwanese Products to Shop for

Taipei: 8 Uniquely Taiwanese Products to Shop for

Other than being an affluent Chinese state off the shore of mainland China, a non-Chinese foreigner might not know much about Taiwan, unless one has already been there. The island is a home to some truly unique things hardly found anywhere else. In Taipei - the country's capital with a great cosmopolitan feel, yet carefully preserved national identity - one can find lots of interesting stuff, particularly if guided by a knowledgeable insider or with the help of this article, listing the top 8 local products not to be missed!!!
Image Courtesy of: John Moss

1. Taiwanese Tea (7ph)

Taiwanese Tea (7ph)
Image Courtesy of: d2fang
Oolong tea has been one of Taiwan's primary exports until the 1980s, when the tea producers turned their attention to the local market. The tea culture is cherished and promoted in Taiwan. Annual competitions are held between the country's tea districts for the best oolong. The gold winning teas are some of the most expensive in the world.
Pouchong, or "wrapped kind" (Chinese), tea presents a beautiful balance between the freshness of green tea and suave floral notes. The tea has a soft texture and is highly valued for its aroma, which lingers on the palate long after the last sip. The tea can also be found in tea bags with a price of NTNT$8 for 15 tea-bags or approximately NT$20 for 100g.
Another famous Taiwanese tea is Dong Ding. The tea is medium-oxidized and has a naturally sweet, fruity aroma and a clean, refreshingly sweet taste which reminds of peach. The cost of this tea starts at approximately NT$20 per 100g.
The Oriental Beauty Tea, or "Dongfang Meiren" tea, is a heavily fermented, non-roasted oolong with naturally sweet aromas and a bright-reddish orange color. In the 20th century, a British tea merchant presented this tea to Queen Elizabeth II, who named it "Oriental Beauty". The tea is also special due to the fact that no pesticides are used on the tealeaves; the plant itself initiates a defensive reaction against insects, which also results in the unique taste of this oolong. It is sold at a price higher than the two previous teas, namely – around NT$23 to NT$33 for 100g.
The High Mountain Tea is a semi-fermented oolong which maintains all nutrients and natural healing factors of the unfermented green tea, but without the raw taste and possible irritation. It is subjected to a brief fermentation, which is the cause of a subtle fragrance and flavor. It is grown at an altitude higher than 100m above sea level. They believe that at such heights the air is less polluted, which makes the tea even more valuable. One kilo of the first grade Taiwanese High Mountain Tea can sell for between NT$180 and NT$300.
Last but not least, the Oasmanthus Oolong is produced from beautiful, uniquely fragrant, yellow flowers. These are the traditional symbol of love and romance. Therefore, the Oasmanthus Oolong is often used in wedding ceremonies in Taiwan. The scenting of the tea is conducted using the imperial method, resulting in a champagne-like aroma and a rich flavor. The tea is sold at approximately NT$25 per 100g.
Where to find it:
Hui Liu
No.9, Lane 31, Yung-Kang St., Taipei, Taiwan
tel: + 886 2 23926707
http://huiliu.info
Open Monday to Sunday 11:30 – 22:00

Chuan-shang Tea Store
No.58 Heng Yang Road, Taipei, Taiwan

Lin Hua Tai Tea
No. 195, Section 2, Chóngqìng North Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10359
tel: +886 2 2557 9887
quality-tea.blogspot.com

2. Pineapple Cake

Pineapple Cake
Image Courtesy of: Zeping Yang
Pineapple cakes are nicknamed Taipei's "Golden Bricks". With locally grown ingredients wrapped in a western-style pastry, the cakes have become very popular with tourists. As a result, their production has grown 16-fold over the last 6 years. The cake is both crisp and soft, with a rich flavor and an aroma of the delicious fruit it is named after. They are sweet, without being oily. The low water content gives the pineapple cakes an easy-to-preserve quality and a shelf life of one month or longer. They are also easy to carry, wrapped in square packages with the Chinese characters for "Taiwan", images of pineapples and/or names of the towns which grow them. They are not particularly expensive, with 12-pack boxes ranging in price from NT$10 to NT$20.
Pineapple symbolizes "bringing health" in Taiwan. Thus, the cake is a great gift carrying over some of the symbolism and representing Taiwanese hospitality.
Where to find it:
Vigor Kobo
No.76, Jioucyuan St., Datong District, Taipei City 103, Taiwan
tel: +886 2 2599 7533
Open Monday to Sunday 08:00 – 22:00
http://www.taiwan-vigor.com.tw

Chia Te Bakery
No.88, Sec. 5, Nanjing E. Rd., Songshan District, Taipei City 105, Taiwan
tel: +886 2 8787 8186
http://www.chiate88.com

Ke Jih Pineapple Pastry Specialty Shop
No.836, Bade Rd., Sec. 4, Taipei City, Taiwan
tel: +886 2 2785 3802
Open Monday to Sunday 09:00 – 22:00
www.ke-jih.com
kejih27853802@gmail.com

Isaac
No.84, Shipai Rd., Sec. 2, Taipei City, Taiwan
tel: +886 2 2821 8128
www.isaac-food.com.tw
smithcsgod@yahoo.com.tw

3. Oilpaper Umbrellas

Oilpaper Umbrellas
Image Courtesy of: Cylee
These umbrellas are among the most visually stunning mementos one could bring from Taipei. The umbrellas are made of an intricate bamboo frame and transparent paper, both artfully painted with intricate designs and then lacquered. Aside from providing shade and, surprisingly, shelter from the rain, these umbrellas are a traditional component of wedding ceremonies, and symbolize a happy and full life. They are also believed to bring good luck and are often given as gifts at symbolic events in the family.
Price-wise, an 8-inch umbrella will range from NT$14 to NT$20. A 19-inch version will start at around NT$40 and up.
Where to find it:
Huashi Street Night Market
Huaxi St., Wanhua Dist., Taipei City, Taiwan
tel: +886 2 2388 1818

4. Ri Xing Typography Character Molds

Ri Xing Typography Character Molds
Ri Xing Typography offers a unique, complete set of traditional Chinese character molds. Considering the heritage of these characters, by taking one home, you would be taking a piece of history. You could collect several to spell out your name or a famed Chinese saying. And if you look at the characters printed by these molds, you will notice how much more alive they look compared to the modern, computer-printed characters; only the hand-painted display more character.
The molds make for a unique and quirky gift, reasonably priced at approximately NT$1 each.
Where to find it:
Ri Xing Typography
13, Ln 97, Taiyuan Rd, Taipei City, Taiwan
tel: +886 2 2556-4626
Open Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 17:30 – 19:00 and Saturdays from 9:00 – 12:00. Call ahead to confirm visiting hours.
rixingtypography.blogspot.com

5. Budaixi-Glove Puppets

Budaixi-Glove Puppets
Image Courtesy of: John Moss
In Taiwan, glove puppetry has been a main form of entertainment for centuries. The puppets combine popular characters and age-old folk-art. They dance on the gloved fingers of artisans, retelling traditional stories through facial expression, dance and music. The traditional puppets are divided into three categories: sheng (male character), dang (female character) and jing (painted face). The sac-bodies, carved and painted wooden heads and elaborate attires make them true works of art. Hand-puppet operas have evolved into film production, with an annual value of over NT$40 mln. The movies are exported to Japan and the United States, which in turn contributes to the puppets' popularity. The prices for these fun keepsakes range from NT$50 upwards.
Where to find it:
Chang Yi Fang
No.27, Lane 47, Yongkang Street, Taipei City, Taiwan
tel: +886 2 3393 7330
Open Tuesday to Saturday 11:00 – 19:00
http://www.cyf-bodehi.com.tw/
cyf@cyf-bodehi.com.tw

Puppetry Art Center of Taipei
2F., No.99, Sec. 5, Civic Blvd., Songshan Dist., Taipei City 105, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
tel: +886 2 2528 9553
Open Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 – 17:00
http: //www.pact.org.tw
pact@pact.org.tw

6. Meat-Shaped Stone

Meat-Shaped Stone
Image Courtesy of: kattebelletje
The original Meat-Shaped Stone, dating back the Ch’ing Dynasty, is one of the two most famous works of art displayed at Taipei's National Palace Museum, along with the Jadeite Cabbage. It is no surprise that its reproduction makes one of the most popular local souvenirs. The stone is a banded jasper, which bears close resemblance with a juicy chunk of pork cooked in soy sauce, specifically - Tung-p'o meat. The stone itself is layered; with time, each layer attains different hues and colors. The artisan shapes up the stone and paints the "skin" on top, creating an illusion of lean and fatty layers of meat. The price for the Meat-Shaped Stone souvenir is approximately NT$200.
Where to find it:
National Palace Museum
No.221, Sec. 2, Zhishan Rd., Shilin Dist., Taipei City 11143, Taiwan
East Wing, Exhibition Area I, B1F, 1F, 2F
tel: +886 2 2881 2021
http://www.npm.gov.tw
service01@npm.gov.tw

7. Franz Collection Porcelain

Franz Collection Porcelain
Image Courtesy of: trudi harrison
Franz Porcelain is a Taiwanese pottery brand of tableware and decorative accessories. The porcelain is created using the finest clay and glazes. Its confection combines traditional and innovative techniques, continuously experimenting with new ways to glaze, decorate and fire ceramics. As a consequence, the products represent a combination of Chinese heritage with Art Noveau.
The main inspiration for the Franz Collection Porcelain comes from nature, which is mirrored in the delicate butterflies, flowers, animals and other motifs adorning each confection. Among the company's top selling themes is the "Papillon" Butterfly collection, which presents various ceramic items decorated with graceful butterfly figures. Nature is an indispensable part of the company's philosophy, a fact which also determines their "going green" principle aimed at protecting the environment.
The company has also ventured into a new field, namely the Franz Fashion Accessories, presenting nature-inspired pins, pendants, bracelets and earrings. You will see flowers, dragonflies, beetles, shells, goldfish and many other colorful representations of nature's wonder. The items are beautifully painted, delighting with bright and harmonious colors and incorporating Taiwanese traditional styles. They seem to be so delicate that a simple touch would ruin their suave forms, but that illusion is only proof of the designer's ingenuity.
Franz Porcelain can be bought both as individual pieces and as sets, with prices starting at NT$100 and up.
Where to find it:
Franz Collection
10C, 5F, 45 Shifu Rd. (Taipei 101 Mall)
+886 2 8101 8389
www.franzcollection.com.tw

8. Dried Pork Floss (Rousong)

Dried Pork Floss (Rousong)
Image Courtesy of: Hwa Young Jung
It is sometimes called "Meat wool" and hails from the Fujian Province. This is a dried meat product characterized by soft consistency and a fluffy texture, similar to coarse cotton. It melts in your mouth, creating a fleeting, subtly sweet and salty sensation. Rousong is made by stewing pork cuts in a mixture of sweetened soy sauce until the muscle fibers can be easily separated. Afterwards, the meat is strained and then dried in an oven. In the end, it is mashed, while being cooked in a large wok, until completely dry. It is an indispensable part of the daily diet in Taipei, actively used in Taiwanese cuisine as topping for rice and tofu dishes or as a filling for various pastries. In the mornings, it is often served with bread or rice and also garnishes the majority of boxed lunches sold in the city. Rousong can also be made from fish or beef. Is is sold in portable packets and is easy to preserve. Prices start at around NT$25 for 100g.
Where to find it:
Chien Hsiang Foods
No.281, Sec. 5, Nanjing E. Rd.,Taipei City 105, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
tel: +886 2 2768 3243
Open Monday to Sunday 09:00 – 22:00

Black Bridge
No.9, Sec 2, Hankou Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City
tel: +886 2 2371 6878
Open Monday to Sunday 09:00 – 22:00
blackbridge.com.tw
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