My overall top six shops in 2015
These are the shops that have it all – great ice cream, a pleasant atmosphere, and a business philosophy I’m proud to support. These are the places I’d go back to again and again.
- Snow King: It doesn’t get much better than this. This third-generation family business offers over 70 flavours of exceptionally smooth and delicious Taiwanese-style “babu” ice cream made almost exclusively with local ingredients. Flavours range from classic to aggresively avant-garde (they’re infamous for savory flavours like sesame chicken and pork floss), but so far I’ve never tried one I didn’t like. Snow King recently swapped their adorably old-school ground-floor shopfront for a more modern setup on the second floor, but what they lost in vintage charm, they regained in a quieter, cleaner, and more comfortable space away from the street to sit and enjoy your ice cream. This is my undisputed “Must Try” recommendation.
- O Rose Gourmet French Ice Cream: if Snow King is the king, O Rose is the queen. Ice cream master Olivier sources premium local and imported ingredients to produce the best European-style ice creams and sorbets I’ve had in Taiwan (and because he’s reduced sugar content to suit more subtle local tastes, I actually prefer them to most ice creams I tried in Europe, as well). Expect intense flavours, smooth textures, and playful combinations, as well as hard-to-find flavours like pure pistachio and hazelnut. Bonus: you can choose as many flavours as you like at no added cost! The shop is cosy, equipped with a coffee bar, and conveniently located just around the corner from Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT station.
- Ten Ten Gelateria: This shop is probably the most attractive place in the city to kick back with an ice cream, hidden in a quiet alley facing a local park. Ten Ten insists on offering the freshest possible product, rolling out two new batches of handmade gelato each week. They use mainly local ingredients and also make their own fruit juice concentrate to use as a sweetener – they don’t add any fructose or artificial flavourings at all. Besides ice cream, they also have a full menu of snacks, meals, coffee, and other drinks, so you can get everything from brunch and afternoon tea to dinner and after-dinner drinks. The service is really friendly, too. Overall, this is a place you’ll want to linger in all afternoon!
- Jason’s Fruits Store: This luxury fruit retailer offers a uniquely Taiwanese ice cream experience. Europeans tend to segregate fruit and dairy and use fruits only in sorbets, not ice creams; Taiwanese prefer to combine the two together in a sherbet-like hybrid. Jason’s Fruits Store uses their premium locally-grown fruits to make lovely fresh Taiwan-style sherbets with minimal sugar and loads of natural fruit flavour. The shop is expensive, but the ice cream is affordable, and the fruit-themed decor is super cute and fun. A great place to treat yourself or introduce an out-of-town friend to the best that Taiwan’s fruit industry has to offer.
- Right Ice Cream: This ultra-DIY family business is a bit of a maverick, started from scratch by an ice-cream-loving mechanical engineer who designed his own recipes and altered his machines himself to produce the desired texture.Tucked into a dingy alley off an industrial street, the tiny shop doesn’t look promising, but go in anyway, sit down at the homemade table (an antique recycled door on cinderblocks), pet the family dog, and ask Mr. Yang what his ice creams are today – he’ll even name all the farms that he sources his ingredients from. If that’s not charming enough, they’ve even got a bicycle cart that they wheel out to markets and events.
- Jung Yard Softee Soft-Serve Ice Cream: This hole-in-the-wall shop specializes in gourmet soft-serve, offering only one carefully handcrafted flavour per day. Their soft-serves are usually made with local Taiwanese fruits and teas. Each flavour is paired with its own special toppings. They have an exceptionally light touch, so you can really enjoy the natural flavours of the ingredients. Tucked into a quiet alley, the shop is little more than a street stall, with only a few open-air seats available. Although it’s not a shop where you can hang out all afternoon, it’s a really pleasant place to relax and watch the world go by for a few minutes while you enjoy your ice cream.
An honourable mention for Boite de Bijou: This shop is chiefly a French-style boulangerie, but their fresh house-made sorbets and ice creams are not to be missed! With a full range of gorgeous breads, pastries, chocolates, sandwiches, meals, and drinks, as well as a beautiful dining area and patio, this is a place you’ll want to stay in all afternoon.