Like a kid in a you know what

Sweeten your life with a trip to some of Taipei’s best candy stores

By Catherine Shu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Jul 29, 2009 - Page 13

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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.

Address: 12, Ln 151, Renai Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市仁愛路四段151巷12號)

Telephone: (02) 8773-0955

Open: Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 9:30pm; Sunday 11am to 8pm

Details: Credit cards accepted

On the Net: tw.myblog.yahoo.com/papabubbletaiwan; www.papabubble.com

A world of pure imagination: VVG Bon Bon

(好樣棒棒)

The interior of VVG Bon Bon (好樣棒棒), a year-old dessert cafe in Taipei’s East District (東區), can perhaps best be described as a cross between Willy Wonka’s infamous chocolate factory and Versailles. The walls are pastel rose and covered with a giant gilt-framed mirror, crystal chandeliers and cuckoo clocks in three different colors. A baroque display case is filled with small toys, while a large plastic sheep on top of a pink refrigerator keeps watch over diners.

VVG Bon Bon’s signature is its delicate cupcakes, which come in 10 flavors and are covered in icing flowers or rainbow-colored sprinkles. The treats are lined up in a display case topped with crystal cake stands filled with yet more sweets — handmade marshmallows, chocolate-dipped dried fruit, cheerfully decorated sugar cookies, lemon macaroons — situated next to a cotton candy machine.

“When we opened VVG Bon Bon, our first restaurant [VVG Bistro] was already 10 years old, so we wanted to try something different. We wanted to create a place that would appeal to adults, but still have a sense of childlike wonder,” says Grace Wang (汪麗琴), one of the co-owners of the VVG group, which runs three dining establishments and a bed-and-breakfast.

The front of the cafe is consecrated to the temple of sugar: jars filled with candy sold by weight, or wrapped in elaborate packaging and displayed on a large metal stand that is as tall as most adults. Muslin sacks and plastic spheres filled with yet more candy hang from branches carefully arranged in a giant vase. Sweets include jellybeans from the US, Italian chocolate in pretty foil wrappers, Jordan almonds from France, pastel-colored ramune rock candy from Japan, fruit-flavored taffy from Taiwan and lollipops printed with VVG Bon Bon’s logo. Handmade marmalades and fruit jelly in flavors like caramel and organic apple are lined up like glittering jewels. On a recent afternoon, a wide-eyed toddler ran towards a chair stacked with cookies, candy hearts and a wooden nutcracker.

“Kids come in here all the time,” says Wang. “They go absolutely insane.”

Wang hopes that grown-ups who walk into VVG Bon Bon will feel the same sense of glee — and not just from a sugar high.

“I think candy just makes people cheerful. When we were kids it was a forbidden pleasure, because it gave us cavities and so on. But now that we are grown up, we can eat candy whenever want,” says Wang.

VVG Bon Bon’s set menus, which include a main course, drink and dessert, are NT$580 each, while cupcakes are NT$80 each. Hard candy from Japan is NT$180 for 100g, while handmade jellies are NT$110 to NT$250 depending on the size of the jar.

Address: 13, Ln 161, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市敦化南路一段161巷13號)

Telephone: (02) 2711-4505

Open: Monday to Friday noon to 9pm; Saturday and Sunday 11am to 9pm

Details: Credit cards accepted.

On the Net: www.vvgbbb.com.tw

A river of chocolate

Chocoholic (巧克哈客)

Chocolate addicts will emerge from this restaurant off Yongkang Street (永康街) in a happy stupor after the chocogasm of their lives. Chocoholic serves almost every kind of cocoa-flavored drink — hot chocolates, tea, ice cream floats, coffee — imaginable. Desserts include classics like brownies a la mode and a fondue set for two (NT$520). More unusual selections include a sandwich stuffed with chocolate flakes and banana slices and served with thick, creamy warm chocolate sauce (NT$135). Premium candy like Valrhona chocolate bars is also available.

Address: 2, Ln 7, Yongkang St, Taipei City (台北市永康街7巷2號)

Telephone: (02) 2321-5820

Open: Monday to Friday 2pm to 11pm; Saturday and Sunday noon to 11pm

On the Net: www.chocoholic.com.tw

Truffle One (松露巧克力舖)

Located near Chocoholic, Truffle One caters to chocolate connoisseurs looking for something different, like olives coated in dark chocolate.

Address: 45-1, Yongkang St, Taipei City (台北市永康街45-1號)

Telephone: (02) 2391-5012

Open: Tuesday to Saturday 3pm to 9pm

On the Net: www.truffeone.com.tw

Henry & Cary Handmade Chocolate (Henry & Cary 手工巧克力)

The owner of this small shop near National Taiwan University studied chocolate making in France. Henry & Cary’s chocolates and truffles come in many unusual and delicious flavors, including lavender and Earl Grey tea.

Address: 36, Ln 283, Roosevelt Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市羅斯福路三段283巷36號)

Telephone: 0910-583-139

Open: 1pm to 11pm

NKSDCHOCO (七見櫻堂)

This tiny shop on Taishun Street (泰順街) sells premium chocolates and truffles delicately flavored with tea, wine or herbs, as well as fresh egg puddings.

Address: 2-1, Taishun St, Taipei City (台北市泰順街2-1號)

Telephone: (02) 2364-5593

Open: Tuesday to Sunday 11:30pm to 10pm

On the Net: www.nksdchoco.com

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