A review of the independent coffee house and home of the 2016 Barista World Champion at Da’an District in Taipei. Notes are by an amateur coffee enthusiast and shoestring digital nomad. Descriptions are equal parts coffee and remote-work suitability. Most photos are shot with a second-hand Fujifilm X100.
Perhaps you may have heard, Berg Wu (吳則霖) from Simple Kaffa is the 2016 World Barista Champion (his final presentation). Needless to say, the title has attracted many a coffee connoisseur to his centrally-located cafe in the trendy shopping station Zhongxiao Dunhua.
Look for the boutique Hotel V towering above the low-rise fashion shops and head down the stairs to the open courtyard in the basement. If it weren’t for the small blackboard sign (and fixture of waitlisted people), you’d easily overlook the cafe as one of the other designer shops in the hotel.
Be prepared to be wait-listed. The staff will take down your local number and notify you when a table becomes available. If you do not have a local number, they will give you an estimated wait time and offer to hold the table for you. I had about 10 parties ahead of me, which meant at least an hour wait. The lady serving kindly offered to even hold the table for me if one became available within an hour and I was not back from walking.
Take-away is also a popular option, and one I opted for with limited time. Note that the one-plus-one menu is not available for takeaway, but all other drinks (espresso-based or pour over) are available and have a take-away discount.
In the end, I opted for the pour-over Panama Morgan Washed (400 TWD / 12 USD), as I wasn’t sure how much the flavours would survive in a take-away cup. I’m happy to announce that they do, even with the lid. Take off the lid, and the rich floral and fruity notes come alive before being washed with a smooth – description says honey – finish.
For people looking to remote-work, they will not kick you out even if there is a long wait-list.
Their Story / What I like About Them:
It’s hard to believe The Lobby cafe only opened in 2013. Many will quickly cite Berg’s 3 consecutive Taiwan Barista Championship titles as pre-destined talent, but he is actually an engineer (developer) who traded his career for coffee (Chinese interview). He runs Simple Kaffa with his wife, who has avoided media attention, but is no doubt the other half of the story. In an interview, he recalls the early period when the cafe only saw one visitor a day.
I didn’t know any of this when I first walked through the courtyard. In fact, I had even circled the hotel marked on the map because I hadn’t the slightest inkling of what I was looking for. I was just checking out the place that sold the Espresso Blend and Gedeb Washed beans a colleague had sent over to Hong Kong. The Gedeb Washed wash perfect for me because of the citric notes. Even the Espresso Blend, which ended up more chocolatey and creamy since I only had a V60 pour-over, had a solid bright impression.
For 200 grams, prices could range from 450 to 1500 TWD (approx 14 – 45 USD), which is average for an independent roaster. I overheard the staff saying that the roasts were small batch and each type had limited stock.
Speaking of staff, I need to highlight the professional service. The all-female staff were efficient and friendly, especially when handling disappointed customers who were informed of the double-digit waitlist. While I was waiting for my drink, which took at least 15-minutes, I watched them at the counter. The three women behind the counter were focused on each drink, but also responded quickly to team members who called their attention. Likewise, those on the floor made sure to greet everyone, remember orders, and look out for customers in need.
Successful places often have an air to them. Visitors may brace themselves to be educated, or brushed off, or served with slightly condescending flair. I was perfectly prepared to be disappointed, by everything from brewing inconsistency to moody staff. Quite the contrary. My most unexpected delight was discovering a team that was just really dedicated to good coffee and hospitality.
- Coffee: Pour-over, espresso
- Food: Pastries
- Cafe Space: Approx 30 indoors, 15 outdoors (courtyard)
- Friends: Hangouts, catching up, reading, work
- Workspace: Individual tables
- Remote Work: WiFi available, no outlets
|Address:|| 台北市敦化南路一段177巷48號B1 (Hotel V內)
B1F., No.48, Ln. 177, Sec. 1, Dunhua S. Rd., Da’an Dist., Taipei City 106, Taiwan
|Website:||Website / Facebook|
|Hours:||Mon-Thurs, Sun: 12:30-21:30
Fri & Sat: 12:30-22:00
Check out other nearby cafes at my Songshan Coffee Walk post (map included)!