One of my favorite things about walking around in cities is discovering wonderful spaces in unassuming neighborhoods. Most of the residential buildings in Taipei are rather uninteresting, cookie-cutter slabs of concrete and steel. In the west side of Zhongshan Park in Da-an District, however, things felt more lively. Expressive storefronts lined up the alleyways with brushes of greeneries. Among them, a specialty matcha cafe named “Matcha One,” with its wooden fences and all-glass storefront, felt almost too modern among its well-aged neighbors.
The interior design felt immediately familiar and yet refreshingly modern. Soft lantern lights painted a warm tone on the calm and uniform natural wood planks on the walls. Instead of tatami and chabutai (as I instinctively expected from the context), simple wooden tables and chairs line up the floor. It was aesthetically Japanese with a western coffee shop twist.
The employee recommended the layered matcha cake, one of their signature desserts. I ordered that alongside hand-whisked matcha. The cake had an exquisite texture. Thin sheets of crepes and evenly spread matcha cream build on top of each other layer after layer, compounding to a smooth and fluffy bite in an unmistakably rich matcha flavor. I regretted ordering the matcha a little bit as the compounding flavors proved to be slightly too much. Maybe some citrus green tea would nicely compliment the heavy layers of cream and crepes. The house was getting fuller as the clock struck three. Chuckles and chatter filled a corner of the room where a table of women in kimono seemed to be enjoying their Saturday gathering. I couldn’t tell why they were wearing kimono as they were conversing in Chinese. Perhaps that’s Taiwan for you.
As I bid farewell to this house of matcha, the ordinary neighborhood took me back from this detour. I wondered when our paths will cross again.