The candywoman can: Papabubble
The newly opened Taipei branch of international candy brand Papabubble is a dream 10 years in the making.
A decade ago, store director Ann Lin (林怡蕙) was an overwhelmed university student in Melbourne. She was walking by a mall one day when a mouthwatering scent wafted by. It turned out to be from a store where the owners were busy making candy in front of transfixed shoppers.
“I liked watching the way the candy makers interacted with their customers. When they were done, they invited everyone to try some and it was all very cheerful. At that time I was very homesick and under a lot of pressure, to the point where I could barely get my work done,” says Lin. “I was studying design and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I could apply my creative ideas to candy? If I could open a store like that, it would be so wonderful.’”
But Lin’s fantasy remained just that for years while she worked as a Web and graphic designer in Taipei. Then one day she stumbled upon a Web site with news of Tommy Tang and Christopher King, the candy makers she met as a student. They had sold their shop in Australia, moved to Barcelona and founded Papabubble, which now has stores in Tokyo, Amsterdam and New York City.
“I contacted them and we talked for a year before I acquired the rights to market the brand in Taiwan,” says Lin. At the beginning of this year, Lin, her sister Christine Lin (林詩倩) and a co-worker traveled to Spain to study candy making at Papabubble headquarters for 12 weeks. Their store near Renai Circle opened one month ago.
“We learned everything, from basics like preparing the mixture and what temperatures to use, to how to make complicated designs,” says Lin.
Papabubble’s specialty is made-to-order hard candy that resembles Venetian glass, with brightly colored exteriors and small pictures or writing in the middle. Some of the more intricate designs include the Chinese character for “double happiness” (囍). Many of the store’s clients order candy with their company logo to give as corporate gifts. One of the most unusual custom designs Lin has worked on was a giant lollipop filled with 20 euros in cash.
“If a customer has an idea, we’ll figure out how to make it a reality,” says Lin.
The Lin sisters and three other employees make fresh batches of candy every day at steel worktables that dominate their small storefront, which looks more like a neat little science lab than a sweets shop. Lin and her colleagues spoon natural flavorings (including watermelon, lime, black currant, passion fruit, lavender or anise) into a molten sugar mixture before kneading and stretching it, carefully layering different colors together, and rolling the candy into smooth, hard canes, which are then chopped into bite-sized pieces.
The sampling policy at Papabubble is generous, with no pressure to buy. Customers are invited to eat warm candy fresh off the cooling table and children from the nearby Renai Elementary School (仁愛國小) are often treated to large pieces left over from the manufacturing process.
“I hope people will have the same impression of Papabubble that I did 10 years ago. I hope that they’ll come in, eat some of our candy and leave happy,” says Lin.
Pouches of Papabubble candy cost NT$110 to NT$130 for 60g, while items in gift containers like capped test tubes and jars range from NT$170 to NT$320. Custom orders are NT$20,000 for 10kg, which includes logos and other designs, but does not include premium packaging, which is sold separately. Sugar-free candy is available for diabetics.