With this week's topic in mind, NOMM went in search of a cup of soymilk-creamed coffee. A quick Internet search brought up two possibilities: Starbucks and Loving Hut.
Starbucks, which like 7-Eleven is owned by Taiwan's largest food manufacturer and retailer Uni-President Enterprises Corp (統一企業), deserves credit for offering a soymilk option at all branches. This is possibly the WORST CUP OF COFFEE IN THE WORLD, however, since the coffee's flavour is almost completely hidden by a nasty, sweet taste that is presumably the soymilk. Moreover, at NT$105 for a small cup is not cheap (though again, Starbucks deserves credit for its NT$10 discount to customers using their own cups).
Regular soymilk users say that Uni-President's brand is among the worst available, and since Starbucks uses the sweetened version, staff are incapable of complying with a request for a sugar-free drink.
Loving Hut, which has 28 restaurants in Taiwan out of 135 worldwide, offers a vegan cappuccino. Each branch has its own menu; NOMM visited the Guangfu store, which sells hot pots and stews, with sides of pancakes, skewers and kimchi, cakes for desserts and various beverages.
The soup of the hot pot (NT$199) was tasty enough--NOMM chose Southeast Asian pumpkin and coconut from the half-dozen available--and free top-ups were taken. The other ingredients included too many processed and fake-meat items, however, and more than half of the vegetables was simply cabbage.
香椿), which is becoming increasingly popular both on and off the local vegetarian scene, was good. Another positive point for Western vegetarians is that Loving Hut offers garlic and onions, unlike most Buddhist and Yiguandao restaurants in Taiwan.
On the other hand, however, whereas most of the nation's vegetarian establishments play quiet music or chanting as the soundtrack to one's meal, LH restaurants have large flat-screen TVs continuously broadcasting programming from the Supreme Master Television station, which seems largely to be the ideology of the exotic bleach-blond Supreme Master Ching Hai. Her message of "save the planet - go vegan" is the ethos behind the brand.
The soymilk cappuccino (NT$70) was also more than adequate. A staff member explained that the more authentic flavour was due to the imported US creamer being a "bean milk" (豆奶) using mixed ingredients rather than a pure soybean milk. Although not officially for sale, she offered some to NOMM for NT$80 per 930ml bottle.
Many of the menu items are also available to take away for cooking at home, as are cups of coffee. This is good news for tired shoppers in Taipei's Zhongxiao E. Road district, since purchasing only a coffee for inside consumption is not possible due to LH's NT$120-minimum purchase for restaurant patrons.
Address: No.30, Lane 280, Guangfu S. Rd., Da-an District, Taipei City
Tel: (02) 2777 2711
Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2011