While many people might know Tainan as Taiwan’s oldest city and its capital for more than 200 years, they might not know that the southern municipality also grows coffee plants. Tainan is now hoping to promote not only its rich history, but also coffee made from the beans grown in Dongshan District (東山).
In 1884, the British brought coffee plants to Taiwan, and what was then considered an exotic agricultural product was first cultivated in New Taipei City’s Sansia District (三峽) in northern Taiwan, the Dongshan Farmers’ Association said.
During Japanese colonial rule in 1941, Taiwan saw peak coffee production after the Japanese introduced arabica to the island, the association said.
However, the coffee industry in Taiwan was hurt by World War II as well as a deteriorating economy in the post-war era before momentum picked up in the past few decades, with more local consumers growing fond of the beverage. Coffee has since become part of the daily lives of many Tainan residents.
Most of the coffee plants in Tainan are grown in what is known as the global coffee belt — mountains 500m to 800m above sea level.
Donghsan’s coffee farms are close to the Zengwe, Baihe and Wushantou reservoirs, where temperature, humidity and soil quality are ideal for coffee cultivation, the association said, adding that growers want to let people outside the city enjoy their product.
“The city is working to boost the visibility of Dongshan coffee, allowing more coffee lovers to know its good quality,” Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) has told reporters.
The city has almost 57 hectares of coffee farms, with Dongshan as the major growing area, covering 53.9 hectares, the Tainan Agricultural Bureau said.
That makes the city the largest coffee growing area in Taiwan, with an annual harvest of 730,000 tonnes.
Since most of the coffee farms in Dongshan are along County Highway No. 175, the road has been nicknamed “Coffee Road.” Many coffee shops have popped up on both sides of the road to satisfy visiting coffee lovers.
Wu Cheng-fu (吳振福), who runs “Old Home” coffee shop on Coffee Road, said that Dongshan always offers fresh coffee, which is an advantage no imported coffee can offer.
“Since Dongshan is famous for its longan and orange farms, Dongshan coffee has a special fruity aroma,” Wu said.
About 100 coffee farmers work along Coffee Road, where more than 30 coffee shops have been opened, Wu said.
As part of Tainan’s efforts to promote its coffee, it is planning to build an agricultural leisure park in Dongshan with the aim of attracting people from around the nation to taste the local coffee, the bureau said.
Dongshan is keen to seek approval from the Council of Agriculture for the establishment of the leisure park to promote its coffee, the bureau said.
In Taiwan, leisure agriculture parks are usually built in 18 to 24 months after approval, but the bureau said it would try to open one more quickly to give people a deeper understanding of Dongshan’s coffee.
Such a park would also serve as a pilot project, paving the way for similar tourist attractions in Tainan to promote the city’s various agricultural products, it said.
The association is already operating a coffee cultural museum built in a Japanese-style dormitory, where visitors can learn how coffee beans are grown and roasted, and what a coffee ecosystem looks like. They can also try a cup of Dongshan coffee at the museum.
The Tainan City Government has been sending Dongshan coffee beans to the US-based Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) for certification over the past eight years to help the local coffee compete in the market.
As of last year, 21 types of Dongshan coffee beans had scored more than 80 points to secure the Q Certificate from the CQI to obtain specialty coffee designation, the city government said.
Tainan has also been hosting the annual Dongshan Coffee Festival for more than a decade, from October or November, to bolster the district’s efforts to promote its coffee beans.
The city is also selling Dongshan coffee at the Dongshan service center along the Formosa Freeway (Freeway No. 3). It has also worked with the Taipei Agricultural Product Marketing Co to give people in northern Taiwan a taste of the district’s agricultural specialty.
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