Early Taiwanese Coffee Culture

Date: 2008 May 27th~ 2009 January 4th
Venue: National Museum of History
Gallery:2F Room 202 

The development of coffeehouses in Taiwan under Japanese colonial occupation

In the history of Taiwan, the terms “coffee” and “coffeehouse” were introduced by the Japanese colonial government. In the early years of Japanese colonial rule, coffeehouses in Taiwan were mostly run by Japanese.

In Taipei City, coffeehouses, such as the Chung Yang Restaurant(中央食堂), Parma Cafe and Daiichi Eiraku(第一永樂), were mainly located in the Sakaemachi area (around today’s Heng-Yang Road).

During this period, many Taiwanese students who had studied abroad and had become acquainted with Western culture returned home after completing their studies. They helped to popularize the culture of coffee and coffeehouses in Taiwan society. It was therefore not long before some Taiwanese people began to run coffeehouses.

These coffeehouses included Werther(維特), Tianma Teahouse(天馬茶房)and Bolero(波麗路). Most of them were located in Dadaocheng(大稻埕)District (around today’s Di-Hua Street). They were in fact restaurants, teahouses, cabarets and diners. Bolero, established in 1934, has been in operation for more than 74 years.

These coffeehouses played a very important role in the lives of intellectuals during the period of Japanese colonial rule. For example, the well-known composer Deng Yu-Shian, who composed many popular songs such as “Love Song of Four Seasons”(四季紅), “Sorrow in a Moonlit Night”(月夜愁), “Longing for the Spring Breeze”(望春風), and “Flowers in a Rainy Night”(雨夜花)for Taiwanese people, often went to Bolero to gain inspiration. The owner of Tianma Teahouse, Chan Tian-Ma, also composed “Crying Peach Flowers”(桃花泣血記)at his coffeehouse around that same time.

The term “coffeehouse”, in early Taiwan, was not really a coffeehouse, but rather was a place for Western style recreation. Most customers were Japanese people or Taiwanese students who had studied abroad. At the time, it was quite costly to patronize those coffeehouses. 

Photo courtesy of National Museum of History

More information please check the following website:

Link 1: 

Link 2: http://www.nmh.gov.tw/zh-tw/Exhibition/Content.aspx?Para=0|23|421&unkey=20

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