A cafe in Taipei that employs people with mental illnesses is selling an award-winning tiramisu for the Mid-Autumn Festival on Friday next week.
Located inside MRT Shandao Temple Station in Zhongzheng District (中正), Easy Coffee is a sheltered workshop whose staff is mostly comprised of people with schizophrenia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder or bipolar disorder.
This year, in addition to traditional egg yolk and mung bean mooncakes, the cafe is also selling honey-flavored cake, cheesecakes and tiramisu.
The tiramisu, created with a combination of fair trade and local ingredients, and was voted best creative cuisine by participants at Fairtrade Taiwan’s annual festival this year, the cafe said.
Many of cafe’s employees are easily distracted due to their conditions, cafe manager Wang Peng-hua (王鵬驊) said, adding that factors such as the weather could affect their work.
In the past, some have felt anxious or cried while at work, while others spent a long time learning how to make a sandwich, he said.
However, despite the difficulties they have experienced, which often make them want to escape or resist, once they master complicated tasks, “you can always see the joy in their hearts through the smiles on their faces,” Peng said.
These employees, having overcome obstacles, become more confident and willing to try new tasks, he said.
Through baking and packaging food items, they learn to be introspective, while gaining a sense of accomplishment, he added.
The cafe once had an employee who was very much protected by their family and always believed that their mother — or, in her absence, their older brother — would financially support them, Peng said.
However, one day, three or four years after they had begun working at the cafe, they suddenly asked their teacher at the cafe if they could take care of their own passbook, he said.
It is small gestures like this that show him that the cafe’s employees are becoming independent, he added.