Not us, until research for a story on coffee in Asia led us to the island last June.
As we relate in an article in today's (Friday's) Wall Street Journal Asia 'Weekend Journal', Taiwanese are serious about their java, and that makes the island one of the easiest places in Asia to find a superior cup. I'm not sure where else in the world, other than Japan, you're more likely to find nothing-special neighborhood cafes serving siphon coffee brewed by the cup with fresh beans ground a la minute.
And some photo out takes here.
The photo above wasn't taken on Taiwan, but in one of our favorite Malaysian kopitiam (coffee shops): Sin Yin Loong in Ipoh, an old tin mining town a couple of hours north of Kuala Lumpur.
The beverage of choice at Sin Yin Loong is a local specialty - 'white' coffee.
While regular Malaysian-style kopi is made with beans roasted with butter (or margarine) and sugar (the latter 'burns' on the beans, making Malaysian kopi extra dark and not a little bit bitter), beans for white coffee are roasted with butter/margarine only. The result is a lighter but very rich, smooth, and almost caramel-y brew that really stands up to ice; it's always served sporting a thick head of whisk-induced froth.
When we were in Ipoh last March - for only a little over 24 hours - we spent a disproportionate amount of time drinking in white coffee, and Sin Yoon Loong's homely ambience. Whenever we stopped in for hot or iced (and a piece of the shop's justifiably famous cream-filled sponge roll) -- whether it noon, 2pm, 5pm, 7:30am, or mid-morning (the stuff really is that addictive) -- the place was consistently packed.
In recent years white coffee has become a bit of a gimmick in Malaysia; it's served at regular and chain kopitiam (such as Old Town White Coffee, established by Sin Yoon Loong's across-the-street-competitor), and you can even buy it in instant powdered form. Just add water.
But it was at Sin Yin Loong that we had our first taste of the real deal, no other version comes close. The locals seem to agree.
Sin Yoon Loong, 15A Jalan Bandar Timah, Ipoh Malaysia. 60-52/241-4601. 7am till evening.