May 28, 2012

Fong Da Coffee

Address: 42 Chéngdū Road, Wanhua District (臺北市成都路42號)
Telephone: (02) 2371-9577
Hours: Mon - Sun 8am to 10:30pm
Price: $

Touted by many a travel guide as one of Taipei's original coffee shops, Fong Da is located in the midst of the Ximen hustle and bustle. Established in 1956, Fong Da has made a name for itself selling quality coffee beans, coffee grounds, and, of course, coffee beverages. The first to introduce Taipei to the phenomena that is iced coffee, Fong Da likes to push the boundaries of the Taiwanese palate.
In addition to selling coffee, this coffee shop sells small snacks - primarily cookies, biscuits, and cakes. While I've heard several people speak highly of their green bean cakes, I ordered two slices of toast instead (feeling slightly nauseated from the heat and humidity) for $40 NT.
So, the day was hot and muggy, and I wanted to escape the crowds, enjoy the heavenly feeling of air-conditioning, and have a delicious ice coffee. I suppose in the grand scheme of things, one out of three isn't that bad. Because Fong Da is so well-known, there are always people crowded into the small shop, fighting for a spot at a table or the bar. I went on a Tuesday around 11am and was shocked that there were still a plethora of people. 

Fong Da also has an open store front; this means that the owner doesn't put the AC on full blast (or even "medium blast"), and that the hot, humid air and mosquitoes enter as the wind carries them in. When my toast arrived, I had the vain hope it might come with ice cream on top. Or chilled whipped cream. Or ice. Or a Frigidaire. No suck luck. Regardless, the toast wasn't really anything about which one could write home. I mean, ... it's toast. It tasted toast-y. There was a small tin of jam that accompanied it, but I ate the toast dry.
I ordered the Fong Da Special Ice Coffee for $85 NT. The Fong Da Coffee roast is a mixture of several different, complementary types of coffee beans. The Special Ice Coffee was ice cold (thank God!) and tasted not unlike Irish coffee. There was a certain whiskey-esque tinge to the taste. I still can't put my thumb on it. It was almost as though it was a virgin Irish coffee (though that makes no sense), or maybe an Irish coffee with only a splash of whiskey? I'm not sure, but it was delicious and I felt better for having drank it! 
 As I mentioned previously, Fong Da was quite crowded and after taking a couple sips of my drink, I heard a woman whisper in my ear the amount I owed. Turning around and handing her the money, I got the impression that lingering over my drink would probably annoy the wait staff. I quickly downed it and left. 

Ultimately, Fong Da wasn't a horrible experience and I'm glad I went for the novelty factor, but I'm not sure I'll stop by again. I'm deeply committed to Rufous, though the prices are double those at Fong Da. And I feel obliged to warn you dear reader that, that night, 13 hours after drinking this "Special" coffee, I pulled an all-nighter completely against my will. Now it could be because I spent six hours reading Fight Club from cover to cover and was so energized by the idea of starting my very own Taiwanese fight club I could hardly close my eyes, let alone sleep; or  it could be that the "special" ingredient in the Fong Da coffee is really methamphetamine. I think it's the latter.

The staff at Fong Da don't speak English (or the two elderly women who served me didn't), but the menu is in English and Chinese, so you can always point. Everything on the menu is reasonably priced, with most beverages between $85 NT and $150 NT. The website is in Chinese, but if you click around, you can get a better idea of the prices.

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