T.Loafer (閑隅) seats just 10 people, but the tiny cafe has already garnered plenty of media attention for its unique decor.
Its exterior is lined with more than 20 window frames salvaged from old houses and painted in a faded rainbow of colors, while the inside feels comfortably lived in, with large skylights, vintage furniture and shelves lined with books. The cafe has been profiled in the Apple Daily, served as the backdrop for a cover story on singer Yoga Lin (林宥嘉) in The Big Issue and is frequently booked for wedding photo shoots.
But owner Hsu Cheng-wei (徐政瑋) had only one goal in mind when he opened T.Loafer in the spring: to create an intimate cafe that would double as a platform for fair trade goods and items made by Taiwanese artisans.
(T.Loafer’s Chinese name means “small corner,” while the T in its English name stands for the tea served there and “loafer” is what Hsu hopes customers will become while at the cafe.)
Hsu originally wanted to open a hostel for young travelers, but he nixed that plan when he realized that operating costs would be too high. Instead, he focused on his work as a community developer in Sindian, where he works with studio Watch!Touch (手樸隨想), which creates accessories made with natural textiles and dyes.
Over the Lunar New Year, however, Hsu decided he was ready to try his hand at operating a cafe. He had spent his spare time wandering around Taipei City’s lanes and alleyways while studying real estate at university, and was familiar with the neighborhood near Lishui Street (麗水街) in the Shida area.
“I found this space online and thought it was ideal,” Hsu says. “It’s a bit small, but the neighborhood, the environment and the lighting were all perfect.”
WHAT: T.Loafer (閑隅)
WHERE: 20, Lane 141, Jinshan S Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市金山南路二段141巷20號)
OPENING HOURS: Noon to midnight. The entire cafe is available for rent by the hour; call for rates
TELEPHONE: 0937-817-612, call ahead to make sure seats are available
ON THE NET: tloafer.pixnet.net
Though it is just blocks away from busy Jinshan South Road (金山南路), few cars and mopeds pass by T.Loafer. Instead, pedestrians wandering down the plant-lined alley provide subjects for people watching from T.Loafer’s wall of windows.
When Hsu rented the space, it had an all-white interior. With the help of friends, he completely redecorated the cafe over two months. He replaced the floorboards, added a small, recycled wood bar by the windows and painted the walls a homey shade of olive green. Instant film portraits, gifts from photographers who work in a darkroom downstairs, are taped to shelves.
A gallery of prints by artist Kuo I-kuan (郭以寬) of Chiuzen (沾手) hangs near the entrance, while shelves are lined with handmade items, such as brass and stone jewelry by Su Studio, wallets and scarves by Watch!Touch, hand-carved candles by Izy Home (家?形) and small houseplants in concrete planters by Goodmore.
Other goods include wooden bowls and clay coasters made by craftspeople in Yunlin County and Hsu’s hometown of Hualien.
Despite its popularity as a photo shoot location, Hsu hopes customers will feel free to treat T.Loafer as a second home.
“A lot of cafes now have very nice, professionally decorated interiors, but the trade-off is that people find it harder to relax in them. We thought why not decorate the cafe by ourselves, the way people decorate their own houses? We want T.Loafer to be a place where people can feel at ease and stay a little while.”