Ti En and May pictured above during a January 2018 visit to Café Campesino Coffee Training Lab, our sister roaster in Americus, GA.
Did you know Sweetwater - a local Gainesville, FL roaster - just so happens to have a coffee shop in Taiwan? Ti En and May are natives of Taiwan and lived in South America for 18 years. After meeting Sweetwater Organic Coffee CEO Tripp Pomeroy, they were inspired to open a coffeeshop in the city of Taipei that licenses the Sweetwater brand and roasts its green beans.
Eva: You have had Sweetwater in Taiwan for 5 years now. Can you describe your journey of bringing specialty coffee to your community?
Ti En: After our visit to Florida with Tripp, we left feeling very inspired by the fair trade & organic foods movement. Back then, we hadn’t seriously considered starting anything coffee-related yet. It was only when we moved to Taiwan that we started seeking out coffee that was both high-quality and good tasting. Then, we started thinking about importing the coffee Tripp had introduced us to. We realized that our unique background working overseas had given us a unique perspective to coffee compared to what was available in the Taiwanese market because most of the market focused on cheapness or on luxury, with very few manufacturers thinking about organic goods or fair trade. With Tripp’s guidance & support, we were able to start a venture focused on providing organic, fair trade coffee at reasonable prices in Taiwan.
How have you had an effect on the coffee culture in Taiwan?
In both of our locations, we offer classes to people who are interested in learning more about the entire process coffee goes through from the farm to table.
We hope that if more people are aware of the journey coffee takes to get to them, that it will encourage them to be more curious about the impact they have with each of their daily consumption choices. If enough people think this way, there is a good chance of being able to influence not just the coffee culture, but also the greater culture of consumption in Taiwan.
How has your roastery affected the community? Do people use the space to do work? Just grab the coffee and go? What is the space like?
Our first location is located in a mixed-use building in an industrial neighborhood, so we serve people who work nearby and they will often bring their visitors to have some coffee and chat.
This coffee roasting location is unique in that it provides our visitors with the ability to view the roasting process because the coffee roaster is behind glass windows.
In our second location, located in a more residential neighborhood, we’ve focused on providing a neat and welcoming environment for everyone. The coffee shop has become a social hub of sorts for nearby residents due to its convenient location and inviting atmosphere.
We are glad that the neighborhood parents feel comfortable having their kids spend time between activities at our coffee shop. Some families even ask our baristas to relay messages to their kids when they stop by.
Other than families, we’ve also had nearby working professionals come in to use our coffee shop as an alternative meeting place. In general, we’ve gotten really great reviews from our customers about this location.
What was it like being inspired by coffee in San Francisco and then thinking about recreating it in Taiwan? What are some things you learned?
When we went to US to visit our sons, they took us around a lot of interesting coffee shops because they knew we were interested in starting a business in Taiwan. Notable locations include Sightglass, Blue Bottle, Philz, Dandelion in San Francisco, Verve in Santa Cruz, Intelligentsia in Abbot Kinney, Starbucks Reserve in Seattle, Coava in Portland.
I think the most inspiring aspect for us was how much story is behind a simple cup of coffee and how varied each shop’s approach was. Seeing how each coffee shop expressed its own flavor really gave us the confidence to bring a lot of what we had experienced abroad to the audience in Taiwan.
Is there evidence of climate change where you live? Are there any steps you take, as a coffee business, to fight the effects of climate change?
(Editor's note: All their coffee comes from the same small-scale farmers we source from, meaning its farmed organically, with an emphasis on being regenerative for the soil and local environment.)
Yes, there are increasing signs that climate in Taiwan has changed. One of the clearest examples of that is how we’ve experienced a growing number of typhoons in winter due to the warming of the Pacific, which has led to disastrous consequences to many places in Taiwan. The effects of this destruction are hard to deny because everyone in this island is affected when intense winds and floods shutdown our urban, air, maritime transportation systems.
One of the first steps we’ve taken in response to climate change is piloting a bring-your-own-coffee-cup program to encourage the use of reusable containers with a promotion for Sweetwater KeepCups. We hope that reducing the use of single-use cups can reduce our shop’s ecological footprint by reducing the amount of materials needed to supply a cup of coffee.
Where can visitors find your coffee when they go to Taiwan?
Our first location with the coffee roaster in the industrial neighborhood address is:
3F-2, No. 351, Section 2, Zhongshan Road, Zhonghe District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 235
Our second location is a coffee shop in a residential neighborhood address is:
No. 63, Section 5, Minsheng East Road, Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10575