Louisa Coffee 路易莎咖啡 is a Taiwanese coffee shop chain. Its journey started in 2006 as an independent coffee joint in Taipei, which has since 2012 grown to more than 300 franchises all over the country. The founder previously worked at Starbucks, which you get a little feeling of when visiting any Louisa Coffee, but with a Taiwanese je ne sais quoi. Prices are a tad cheaper than at Starbucks, light food is prepared onsite, the coffee menu also offers pour overs, all of that in a cozy atmosphere (what the brand is aiming for, at least).
As with any food store chains, mileage varies depending on the branch, well, maybe at the exception of all the Taiwan-based Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 stores.
In Kaohsiung, my visit at the Jhongzheng road 中正路 store left me lukewarm, just like the flat white I had ordered. While sipping on my beverage, a middle-aged man sat down on the sofa next to me, no big deal until he started watching a video on his phone, without earphones and volume turned up to the max. Well, thanks for sharing, pal! A few minutes later, comes his wife with her bag on wheels, as if she was coming from the wet market. She sets up office on the coffee table, spreads all sorts of paper on it, and dumps her pencil case out. Obviously at ease, she proceeds to take off her sandals, and starts rubbing her callused feet. Eeeks!「情愛的阿姨，歹勢，這裡不是全家都是你家，欸！」
Still, having some faith in Louisa Coffee, I later went the corner store near the Kaohsiung Cultural center 高雄文化中心. The tight space inside doesn’t make it an ideal place to be productive, but it doesn’t deter some from opening their laptops. The staff also seems to have its caffeine mojo a bit more together, and has been pretty consistent at serving a decent cup of coffee. Also extra points for them to bring food to the table, instead of handing out those buzzers alerting you when the order is ready.
People watching at the Cultural Center shop has also provided some interesting sights, most memorably, my encounter with The Laughing Man.
Out of curiosity, I also checked out the Sanduo 三多 branch, which yielded a peculiar though non-stellar experience. I was denied my wish to have a piccolo, which mmh, was listed on the menu. A bit baffled, I then asked for a flat white, and thankfully, this went through, but the employee who looked liked she wanted her shift to end ASAP, asked me in an indifferent tone: “Is it ok if it’s served in regular cup of coffee?”.
I’d have preferred it served in one of those Duralex glass tumblers, for sentimental reasons, but that’s not the end of the world, so “Sure, ok..”, I replied. It did make me feel like this store was a Louisa Coffee travesty though. After paying, the employee mechanically offered me a stamp card, but I politely declined, thinking “no way, I’m not coming back…”.
While waiting for my drink, I was actually already eager to get it over with. I brought my cup upstairs, a spacious floor appropriate for studying, or taking a nap. I drank my cup, pondering on the the inconsistent experience at all three branches, though the Cultural Center one salvaged it for the other two.
Depending on the stores, Louisa Coffee opens as soon as 7am and stays open until the early evening, the early hours are especially a bonus in Taiwan, where most coffee shops don’t open until 10am or sometimes noon. As far as it goes in Kaohsiung, I’ll be sticking with the Cultural Center branch, where I know I can get my piccolo, or flat white, which these days is just the right milk to espresso ratio that I enjoy, and they serve it in a Duralex glass tumbler, because God forbid if that isn’t the case! 😉 That, and to catch sight of interesting people. 🙂
But okay, if you’ve been closely following the recent Taiwanese news, you might ask: what about Louisa Coffee recently flirting with the idea to partner with High Quality Milk 林鳳營, one of Ting Hsin subsidiaries? Didn’t everyone agree to boycott them?
Two years have passed since the 2014 gutter oil scandal, and if we’re to believe the consumer backlash that ensued after word got out about Louisa Coffee’s contract with High Quality Milk 林鳳營, then no, some still bitter people did not forget.
So to prevent a #GrabYourWallet operation, the management quickly rolled back, and issued a public statement re-assurring customers that Kuang Chuan Milk 光泉鮮亂 will remain as their milk supplier. The emergency PR operation also tried to appease the minds of those who had caught on Louisa Coffee’s milk masquerade, where it came to light that the Louisa Coffee branded milk cartons were actually produced by High Quality Milk 林鳳營.
Well, I’ve been looking to catch up on some Taiwanese Drama, but was not particularly looking for this kind! I guess that’s my luck for writing about this just when the #milkgate happened, ugh!
So, dear Louisa Coffee 路易莎咖啡 at the Kaohsiung Cultural Center, please, stay drama-free, don’t make me take down or strikethrough this post a few months from now.
Now, I need a beer, cheers! 🍻