The Formosa Coffee Brings Taiwan-grown Beans to US

During the past decade, Taiwan’s burgeoning coffee scene has gained more attention, but the stories from news articles have tended towards the creative cafes and talented baristas who import quality beans from other major producers in the world. Rarely told is the story of Taiwan’s own home-grown coffee bean. For connoisseurs of fine coffee, many do know that some of the best beans are grown in the high mountain regions around Yunlin county–a perfect altitude for production. In fact, if one visits central Taiwan, consider trekking around the regions of Gukeng township outside of Alishan where some of the well-known coffee farms can be found. 

Historically, the coffee farms of Taiwan have been around as early as the late 1800s, but it wasn’t until the era of Japanese colonization that some of the best beans were successfully cultivated for export to Japan. Even today, in the shadows of the better-known tea farms of Taiwan, these coffee farms are only now gaining deserved attention because of their high quality and unique flavor profile. Japan remains a major importer of Taiwan coffee, and rarely will you find Taiwan-sourced coffee beans in other countries.

I’m a huge fan of coffee, so during past visits to Taiwan, I’ve had a particular interest in seeking out locally-grown Taiwan coffee. It’s harder than you think, and there are not many cafes in Taiwan that source locally. In fact, I recall several Taiwanese baristas in Taipei preferring or specializing in the typical imports from Africa and South America. On a more recent visit through the mountainside railway town of Fenchihu, I was fortunate enough to sample and purchase award-winning varieties of Songyue brand coffees to take with me back to U.S. Since then, I’ve been waiting to see if Taiwanese-sourced coffee would eventually make it to broader market here in the U.S. We’re probably still a long way from that happening, but now there’s an opportunity to try it out in your own home…

The Formosa Coffee was recently founded by Taiwanese American Jason Chen in New York, who imports directly from Taiwanese coffee farms. I recently bought a couple bags of freshly-roasted whole beans and was impressed with its taste and quality. I’m pleased to present an interview with the founder:

* * *

Ho Chie: Hello Jason! It’s a pleasure to chat with you about your new venture, The Formosa Coffee! I’ve had a chance to sample both the medium and dark roasts that you offer. It’s really good!

Jason: Thanks for having me Ho Chie. I am delighted to be able to share Taiwan grown coffee here in the US. Being the first and only US roaster to exclusively use beans from Taiwan has been exciting and rewarding. We work closely with our farms to quality control every shipment to ensure only the best beans are chosen. Every order is hand-roasted within 24 hours of shipping in New York. To roast the freshest and best tasting coffee, we use top quality beans and make sure every shipment is as fresh as possible and at peak quality. We never compromise on quality and freshness. I must personally sign-off on every order before shipment. The unique flavor profile of my coffee comes from the high elevation of the farms, 3500-4000ft and the sun-dried method. The beans carry a distinctly milder flavor. It is extremely smooth and balanced. The first thing most people notice is the exquisite aftertaste.

H: I totally appreciate the name of your company. We’re all about highlighting all things Taiwanese and Taiwanese American, and you’re the perfect story! So, tell me more about your new company. What inspired you to start this?

J: Many iterations were considered before we settled on The Formosa Coffee. I just love the heritage and beauty of “Formosa”, which means “Beautiful” in Portuguese. The inspiration behind starting a Taiwanese coffee roasting company is a combination of my fanatical addiction to coffee and wanting to bring the best of Taiwanese coffee culture to the US. I have known for the longest time that Taiwan has great coffee. I realized there was a small niche in this industry after speaking with coffee roasters at the New York Coffee Festival. Nobody knew that Taiwan has its own coffee growing industry, so I was determined to make this venture happen and become the first US roaster to focus exclusively on Taiwan coffee beans.

H: And, you’ve basically partnered with your mother who is currently based in Taiwan, right? What’s her role in the company?

J: I am fortunate to partner with my mother who is also crazy about coffee. She recently retired and when I proposed this idea, she immediately agreed to help handle the procurement and shipping side of the business from Taiwan. She is an invaluable and integral part of the business and has been a great mentor and supporter to me.

H: Moms are definitely the best! Anyways, I’ve been waiting a while to see if Taiwan-sourced coffee beans would find its way here to America. It sounds like you’re the first, as far as you know?

J: Yes, that was the driving force behind this venture to become the first US coffee roaster to use only Taiwan-sourced beans. As far as I know, I am currently still the only one.

H: So, more about the coffee itself… What do you think makes Taiwan coffee unique? How about the flavor profiles?

J: Taiwan coffee is unique in the sense that it is not a big coffee producer. Our farms average about 2 tons a year. That is relatively small compared to Brazil, Ethiopia, Colombia, etc. So, every bean must be carefully nurtured and hand-harvested to minimize waste within a 6-month window. No machines are used. Our beans are grown in nutrient rich volcanic soil at an elevation of 3500-4000 ft. The temperature fluctuates between 45-85 degrees during the day and night. We process our beans using the sun-dried method, this involves laying the fruits out under the sun to dry for 1-2 weeks. This gives the coffee a brighter and fruitier flavor profile. What makes our coffee great is how the beans are cared for and handled throughout the growth and harvesting periods. Great attention is placed on ensuring only the ripe beans are harvested. That’s where the exquisite flavor and quality comes from: our farmers who dedicate their lives to perfecting the craft of growing the best coffee beans. On the roasting side, we examine every batch before and after roasting to ensure only the best beans are shipped to the customer. Every order is roasted on the same day of shipping, this maximizes shelf life for our customers and gives them the freshest possible coffee from roast to brew.

H: Tell me about your process. What does it take to get the coffee from a farm in the mountains to your roaster in NY and then to a consumer like me?

J: We place orders directly with the owner of the farm. They package the beans within 2 days and sends them express air to our location in New York. The great aspect of shopping with The Formosa Coffee is we work with USPS and UPS to provide up to 16 shipping methods for our customers to choose from. The checkout system automatically displays the appropriate shipping couriers based on the delivery address. We roast all of our orders on the same day of shipping to maximize freshness.

H: What has the reception been like to your coffee? What’s the biggest surprise so far?

J: The reception has been incredible. Customers are pleasantly surprised by how fresh and smooth the coffee is. The response and overwhelming support from members of the community as they learn about us is amazing.

H: Yes! We definitely have a strong and proud community out there. I’m sure many more will be excited to discover what you do. So, personally, how do you like to prepare coffee for yourself? What’s your method of choice?

J: I enjoy black coffee medium-dark roast. I love my French Press–it produces such a robust flavored coffee.

H: And, if you had to pair it with your favorite Taiwanese dessert or food item, what would it be?

J: Black coffee pairs very well with anything sweet. I am from Taichung, which is famous for its Sun Cake. That is a good pairing right there.

H: I totally agree! What are your thoughts on the future of Taiwan-sourced coffee?

J: The potential is there. Like anything new, it takes time to penetrate a well-established and saturated industry. The competition in the coffee industry here is highly competitive. Whether it’s my company or any competitors in the future, we must make sure to always present Taiwan coffee in the best light. Taiwan has a history of producing extremely high-quality products, and it takes responsible and creative marketing to educate the consumers on the qualities that differentiate Taiwan coffee from the rest.

H: That’s a great perspective to have. And, I completely agree with you that Taiwan has such high-quality and sometimes very unique products or innovations that the global community will appreciate as its presence continues to grow. Personally, what are your hopes for the future with regards to the company?

J: There’s plans in place for expansions into new coffee flavors and physical coffee shops. Merchandising and an App are also being explored. Our focus is to continue to provide top-notch Taiwan roasted coffee with excellent customer service and fast shipping.

H: Well, Jason, I’m totally rooting for you. Thank you so much. I’ve totally enjoyed learning about you and The Formosa Coffee. I hope many people get to enjoy another taste of Taiwan through you. I’m definitely looking forward to my next freshly-brewed cup tomorrow morning!

J: Thank you for having me, Ho Chie, it has been an absolute pleasure chatting with you.

The Formosa Coffee is pleased to offer readers and followers of a one-time 10% discount code for each customer. To receive this benefit, you must register an account on The Formosa Coffee and enter the code “TAORG” at checkout. Purchases over $99 also receive automatic free shipping.



Leave a Reply