A last-minute gift guide

Still stumped this holiday season? Say it with a Taiwanese brand. In five categories, here are one-of-a-kind local boutique picks under NT$500 for the person who has it all

By Stephanie Hsu  /  Contributing reporter

Tue, Dec 24, 2013 - Page 12

Tea

Finding a tea purveyor in Taiwan is easy; it’s more difficult to find a company that puts as much heart into its branding as its tea. Siidcha does. This company produces packaged teas that are a modern take on Hakka tea culture. Siidcha began as a division of the main purveyor of traditional Hakka ground tea in Taiwan, and has since expanded to stock a wide variety of teas — from the full-bodied Roasted Grain Green Tea to the refreshing Tropical Fruit Oolong Tea. (Each box contains 12 pyramid bags, NT$300.) The meticulously crafted packaging is a keepsake in itself, adorned with whimsical watercolor designs of traditional teaware. Siidcha’s product line extends to a range of drink mixes, including the bestselling 10-Variety Grain Set (NT$260), composed of 10 different grain drinks in unique Taiwanese flavors such as red taro and chrysanthemum vanilla. To get the full Siidcha experience, make the time for a jaunt to Siidcha’s flagship store in Jiufen, a stunning concrete and glass building with a view of the hills sloping down towards the sea. Siidcha’s full product line is also sold online through parent company Linyuan Foods.

■ Siidcha — Jiufen store, 166 Jishan St, Ruifang Dist, New Taipei City (新北市瑞芳區基山街166號), tel: (02) 2496-9976, open Mondays to Sundays from noon to 7pm

On the Net: www linyuanfoods.smartweb.tw

Textiles & fabrics

Fabric maker inBlooom consistently turns out beautiful collections of simple, elegant textiles inspired by Taiwan. Past lines have included a series based on animals native to Taiwan; another collection was centered around architectural details found on old Taiwanese houses. Aside from selling fabric by the yard, inBlooom also makes printed textiles into book covers, bags and placemats. Their nostalgia-inducing Delicious Taiwan placemat (NT$350) is equipped with chopsticks storage and printed with drawings of traditional Taiwanese snacks such as red bean soup and pineapple cakes. inBlooom’s products are sold online and through a variety of retailers including ArtYard, a cultural center and design showcase in Taipei’s historic fabric district.

■ inBlooom — ArtYard store, Ln 32, 1, Dihua St Sec 1, Taipei (台北市迪化街一段32巷1號 ), tel: (02) 2552-1321, open from 9am to 7pm

On the Net: www.inblooom.com

Stationery & clothing

Galoop is a lifestyle brand headquartered in Greater Tainan, where it’s known as the go-to shop for whimsical stationery and clothing basics. Their cards and notebooks feature quirky child-like drawings of cities like Paris and the Big Apple, while their day planners come decorated with charming doodles and hand-drawn dates that ensure scheduling with a smile. The brand also does two clothing lines. The Galoop collection caters to men, women and children with a focus on well-cut neutral basics. Sub-brand G LOVE offers livelier casual clothing and fun accessories like brightly-colored nail polish and temporary tattoos. Galoop’s Taipei store, located in trendy Zhongshan, reflects the brand’s sleek yet sophisticated aesthetic and is well worth the visit.

■ Galoop — Taipei store, 24, Zhongshan N Rd Sec 2 , Taipei (台北市中山北路二段24號), tel: (02) 2568-2953, open from 11am to 10:30pm

On the Net: www. galoop.com

Food

Pineapple cake has always been one of Taiwan’s beloved desserts: a tangy pineapple filling enclosed in a flaky pastry exterior. High demand and a desire for bigger profits have spurred degeneration of the dessert’s quality in years past, to the point where cheap winter melon is sometimes used as pineapple substitute. Greater Taichung-based Dawn Cake has gained a devoted following for its mission to restore the cake to its former glory. The brand’s signature Number 17 pineapple cakes (NT$430, box of 14) are made solely with native Taiwanese pineapple and packaged in boxes featuring vintage illustrations of Taiwan’s geography, flora and fauna. Dawn Cake has since expanded its repertoire to include an entire range of gift sets packaged to look like old books; the afternoon tea sets include selections of the brand’s teas, handmade cookies and exquisite chocolates shaped like the seeds of native Taiwanese plants. Dawn Cake currently has four retail locations in Greater Taichung, including a store housed in a meticulously preserved optometrist’s office from the period of Japanese colonial rule. Products are also available online.

■ Dawn Cake — Gongyuan Eye Clinic store, 20 Zhongshan Rd, Zhong Dist, Greater Taichung (台中市中區中山路20號), tel: (04) 2227-1927, open from 10am to 11pm

On the Net: www.dawncake.com.tw

Beauty & accessories

Little Fairies is a growing beauty brand offering a selection of balms and solid perfumes. Its versatile lip balms do triple duty as cuticle oil and a general facial moisturizer. They come in unique flavors and incorporate ingredients sourced all over the world, including root beer from the US and green melon from Hokkaido. The brand’s cheekily named Monkey Business lip balm (NT$280) uses the fragrance of Taiwanese banana as a base. The Merry Xmas solid perfume combines notes of Peruvian basalm, fir and frankincense and fir for a whiff of festive holiday spirit. Little Fairies’ products can be found in Good Cho’s — a charming cafe and design shop housed in a ramshackle veterans’ housing complex. Products can also be found on Pinkoi, an e-retailer that offers independent Taiwanese designers a platform to sell their work.

■ Good Cho’s, Xinyi Public Assembly Hall House C (信義公民會館C館), 54 Songqin St, Taipei (台北市松勤街54號), tel: (02) 2758-2609, open from 9am to 6:30pm, closed on Mondays

On the Net: www.pinkoi.com/store/little-fairies