Written by Fiona Lin and Sam Robbins. Crucially, this isn’t just about establishing a new Taiwanese identity but rather a process of constant reflection for all upon this island on how to have an open and thoughtful form of national identity. I am happy that “Searching for Taiwan Flavour” can be part of this process by using food, drink, nature and business in the foreground.
The Changing role of Laotian Coffee in Taiwan
Written by Chen Szu-An, Translated by Sam Robbins. According to data from the Lao Coffee Association, Taiwan was one of the earliest to enter the Laotian market and invest in coffee production after the government allowed foreign investment in the year 2000. There was even a period where some in Taiwan dreamed of becoming a major player in the development of Laotian coffee. In contrast with the Laotian beans that were first imported to Taiwan as cheap goods, as Taiwanese consumers became more accepting of the idea of “specialty coffee”, Taiwanese business people started to repackage Laotian beans.
TAKING A LEAF OUT OF TAIWAN (AND VIETNAM): HOW “TAIWANESE” IS TAIWANESE BUBBLE TEA?
Written by Kuan-Ren Yun (雲冠仁), translated by Sam Robbins. As Bubble tea has taken over the world and increasingly become a symbol of Taiwan, this unique Taiwanese flavour has only been possible by importing large qualities of tea leaves, including the Vietnamese tea leaves that so many Taiwanese have grown sceptical of. Taiwanese people have felt pride in the success of bubble tea sales, but they also continue to reject foreign tea leaves and see them as only authentic when only Taiwanese tea leaves are used.
Taking a leaf out of Taiwan (and Vietnam): How “Taiwanese” is Taiwanese bubble tea?
Written by Kuan-Ren Yun (雲冠仁), translated by Sam Robbins. When I was in Vietnam from 2016 to 2018, there was a time of immense market transformation underway that raised a very interesting question: The now-famous “Taiwanese bubble tea” had become reliant on Vietnamese tea leaves in Taiwan, and it was only after the transition to Vietnamese tea leaves was made could Taiwanese bubble tea be produced at such a scale to become a global phenomenon.
A Storm in a Coffee Cup: Indigenous Coffee Production, Typhoon Marokat and the long way home.
Written by Chang Yu-Hsin, Translated by Sam Robbins. After the typhoon, indigenous communities moved into new villages constructed in the lowlands through government and non-profit organisations’ funds. The new village for the people of the Taiwu township was roughly 17 kilometres from their original home, and the journey between the two locations took about 40 minutes by motorbike. The number of resources needed to take care of and manage the coffee farms increased as transport and oil costs went up. Especially for community elders who needed to go up the mountains to take care of the coffee farms, the time and energy now required to make the journey was no small burden.
A plant out of water: Taiwanese greens in Thailand
Written by Angel Chao （趙于萱）, translated by Sam Robbins. In supermarkets in Thailand, you can find Thai hydroponic vegetables labelled as ‘Taiwanese greens.’ Why? Because these plants are grown in Thailand by Taiwanese businesspeople who brought Taiwanese hydroponic technology to Thailand, using Taiwanese equipment to grow crops in Thailand.
The Best-Laid Plans of Rice and Men (And Ducks): Organic Farming in Yuanli Township
Written by Li Ching Chen, Translated by Sam Robbins. Hae works on a rice-duck farming cooperative in Yuanli. He wanted to take advantage of the fact that ducks eat rice pests and raise the ducks in the rice paddies. Although the idea was good in theory, there were many difficulties in practice. For example, he told me many of the dogs from the township started hunting the ducks. As ducks slowly waddled through the rice paddies, the dogs would start salivating.
The Homecoming of Indigenous Tea Farmers
Written by Szu-yu Lai, translated by Sam Robbins. When people in Taiwan think of indigenous communities, they think of millet, traditional clothing, and other stereotypical markers. However, from the story of Atayal tea farmers in Li Mountain, we can see that such static imaginings don’t bind indigenous peoples. Admitting to Taiwan’s rapidly changing culture and economy, cultivating tea became a way for Atayal people to reflect on their own culture and relationship with mainstream society. Although tea is not a part of the Atayal people’s traditional culture, it has slowly become a crucial part of how Atayal tribes market themselves through legal and economic changes.
A History of Taiwan’s Apple Farmers
Written by Hui-Tsen Hsiao (蕭慧岑）Translated by Sam Robbins. “They write up a sloppy official document that doesn’t even say anything meaningful, and now everything we’ve worked so hard to have has to go like that. You want us to demolish our own house, we cried and hugged as it happened. You’re a government agency, and you’re willing to let people go through this?” “And after we were forced to demolish our house, the debris from the house was even been set on fire” Ron added.
The “Fruits” of Open Source: The Story of Open Hack Farm
Written by Sam Robbins. As alternative food movements continue to develop and food politics has risen higher on the political agenda in Taiwan, there is perhaps still more opportunities for growth and collaboration between those concerned with the future of how food is produced in Taiwan. For Chen, the primary concern is still sustainability and environmentally sensitive agriculture. Open data and open technology is just a means to the broader end of preparing Taiwan for an increasingly unstable climate future.
Food, Politics and Solidarity Economies in Taiwan
Written by I-Liang Wahn. Food plays a central role in Taiwanese culture, with the evolution of Taiwanese cuisine mixing multiple historical influences and constituting unique identities. But food is also increasingly a political topic and a field for solidarity economies. The politics of food was especially brought to the fore in three developments last year: a series of political events around food, the celebration of a milestone by two independent food media, and an academic conference devoted to food activism.
Taiwan with a Side of New Public Diplomacy
Written by Martin Mandl. At about the same time as Bubble Tea made its first appearance in Vienna, President Ma Ying-jeou proclaimed “taking Taiwan’s food to the world a policy priority”. What followed was an economic stimulus plan, sometimes referred to by commentators as “All in Good Taste – Savour the Flavours of Taiwan”.