Taipei Cafes: Coffee Essential (民生工寓)

A review of the independent coffee house Coffee Essential in Songshan 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.

-- Photo by Athena Lam

Panama pour over — Photo by Athena Lam

Cafe Overview:

Coffee Essential 民生工寓 松山

Disguised as a little neighbourhood joint — Photo by Athena Lam

Opened in 2014, Coffee Essential sits in a hotbed of new cafes in Songshan District. Stiff competition is within a 10-minute walking radius. I’d chosen this place at random, mostly because it fitted the distance I wanted to walk for an afternoon break. Like many of the other cafes in Songshan District, you only recognize its discrete facade when your Google Map arrow is virtually hovering right on top.

Coffee Essential 民生工寓 松山

Cafe, restaurant, bar — Photo by Athena Lam

Upon entering, one can choose from a variety of seating areas, each with their set of coordinated furniture. The middle section has wooden study desks along an exposed building. Individuals can choose a counter seat or window bar ledge. A patio is at the front and glass wall is at the back.

Most Taipei cafes have  Wi-Fi, some even have convenient outlets, but Coffee Essential takes it a step further with individual table lamps in the otherwise atmospherically dim den-like space.

Coffee Essential 民生工寓 松山

Coffee Essential is remote-work friendly  Photo by Athena Lam

One of the unique menu items at Coffee Essential is Dutch coffee, served cold or hot. The usual espresso-based drinks are also available. The main menu has English, but visitors who want to order single-origin pour-overs will have to consult a smaller Chinese-only list.

Coffee Essential 民生工寓 松山

Double-walled glass for savouring flavour — Photo by Athena Lam

I wanted black coffee, hot, so I chose a pour-over Panama washed bean that had “floral, grapefruit, kumquat, chocolate” tasting notes. The cup I got fitted the description with clear flavours shining through at around 45 degrees celsius. I admit, I did have expectations, but the bright notes exceeded it. It seemd a pity to rush the drink in 30 minutes, since they provided a double-walled glass.

Coffee Essential 民生工寓 松山

Enclosed patio seating for natural light and people watching Photo by Athena Lam

Their Story / What I like About Them:

Coffee Essential 民生工寓 松山

Counter seats have individual lamp lights and views of the bar — Photo by Athena Lam

Upon entering, one has the feeling that it is at once spacious and compartmentalized into personal nooks. A large table sits by the entrance. The work counter wraps around the wall and divides the front and back areas. One could strike up a conversation with one of the baristas or feel at ease to stack a pile of textbooks beside a provided lamplight.

Coffee Essential 民生工寓 松山

Craft beer collection  Photo by Athena Lam

I personally liked the sensibly hobbled-together exposed brick, wooden counters, and retro lamps. There’s some quirk that gives the place a sophisticated, but relaxed character.

Coffee Essential 民生工寓 松山

Single-origin pour over menu is in Chinese — Photo by Athena Lam

I peppered waitresses with questions. What was the Wi-Fi password? (Provided) When were they founded? (2014) Where did they source their beans? (From a distributor) Did they have designated workstations? (No, they rotate.)

Both the women (all the staff were female) who answered did so with friendly patience. I’ve noted it down as a place to return to next time for an extended work session.

Coffee Essential 民生工寓 松山

The baristas rotate tasks — Photo by Athena Lam

Good For:

  • Coffee: Pour-over, espresso, Dutch coffee
  • Food: Pastries, meals, beer
  • Cafe Space: Approx 40 seats, enclosed patio, counter, group tables, back seating, large tables
  • Friends: Hangouts, catching up, reading, work
  • Workspace: Individual tables, bar tables and counter tables
  • Remote Work: WiFi and outlets available
Address:   台北市民生東路四段五十六巷一弄三號
No. 3, Alley 1, Lane 56, Section 4, Minsheng E Rd, Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 105
Website:  Facebook
Hours: Weekdays: 12:00-22:00
Weekends: 10:00-22:00

If you liked this post, check out the other cafes within walking distance at Songshan District.

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