Sometimes the past has to be forgotten for a bit before we remember its worth.
Located in Dadaocheng, once a major trading port in Taiwan, the A.S. Watson & Co building (named after the pharmacy it used to house, the first Watson’s on the island) is a vanguard of the historical neighbourhood. Nearby are the Yongle Market, famous for the fabric stalls (all that remains the former centre of the island’s textile industry) and Dihua Street’s busy shops selling Chinese medicinal herbs, incense and Taiwanese tea.
But it’s not tea that we come here for.
When this almost century-old colonial-era building was gutted by fire in 1998, it stood empty for almost a decade before it was revived as ArtYard, a cultural collective that melds old and new in the form of small, local businesses including ceramics maker Hakka Blue, fabric designers inBloom, and the artisanal café Luguo.
The café is discreetly located on the second floor, so customers may sip their coffee away from the bustle of the busy streets below. The ambiance is neither cutesy (typical of the fashionable cafés young Taiwanese girls adore) nor hipster-ish (typical of the industrial chic young Taiwanese bohemians favour).
No, this coffee bar is more like a classy slice of past served in the form of antique lamps, worn typewriters, vinyl records and comfortable rattan chairs. You can savour its very vintage in the air and the silence.
The coffee is carefully brewed; the origin and flavours of the beans explained with precision and pleasure. Other customers allow you your space; they are in a world of their own too, these Taiwanese grandmothers and Japanese ladies and café-hoppers from other lands like the two of us. Everyone has found their own private sanctuary here in Luguo Café.
Truly from the ashes of history, a fresh brew rises. And what a good brew it is too.
Luguo Café @ ArtYard
1, Ln 32, Dihua St Sec 1, Taipei City
Tue-Sun 11am-7pm / Mon closed