A brief history of Taiwan’s local chocolate industry
Chocolate was first introduced to the island of Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period when the government brought cacao seeds from Indonesia. Taiwan’s hot and humid climate actually provides ideal growing conditions for the cacao tree. However, due to a lack of sophisticated processing techniques at the time, the crop failed to succeed and efforts to cultivate cacao eventually ceased.
Ten years ago, a farmer by the name of Qiu Ming Song (邱銘松) introduced his personally-obtained cacao seeds to the fertile lands of Pingtung in his hometown of Neipu.
Not only does Pingtung provide the ideal climate for cocoa trees, but a decline in Taiwan’s betel nut production also provided the perfect timing and perfect land conditions for the reintroduction of chocolate. The betel nut tree is a tall, coconut-like tree that produces a seed that is consumed like chewing tobacco. Due to a growing awareness of its negative health consequences and recent government regulations on this recreational drug, many betel nut trees remain pervasive but untouched on Taiwan’s farmlands. Luckily, these trees provide the shade needed for a healthy cacao tree, allowing farmers to use their current land to shift to chocolate production.
Mr. Qiu was the first to succeed in producing chocolate on a larger scale, leading the way for more than 100 other cacao farmers and a boom in Taiwan’s chocolate industry over the last 5 years. Support from the Pingtung County government also helped turn Pingtung into Taiwan’s national chocolate center, and international awards from chocolate competitions have put Pingtung’s local farmers on the map.
Below are two notable chocolate farms in Taiwan that provide customers with a tour of the chocolate-making process, chocolate tastings, DIY experiences, and, of course, chocolate for personal consumption.
Home to Mr. Qiu, the pioneer of Taiwan’s chocolate industry, this small, local farm provides an educational experience for visitors on their “guest farm.” They bring visitors on a short walking tour of a smaller farm on their land specifically set up for guests. They walk guests through the entire chocolate process, from tree to bar, explaining everything from how cacao trees grow to how their chocolate beans are fermented, roasted, tempered, and molded.
You can expect high-quality chocolate fresh off this farm. Although they produce chocolate for the masses, they allow their chocolate to ferment naturally, refusing to add yeast to speed up the process and thus preserving the cacao’s natural oils that give it a rich taste. The owners speak little English here, so it’s recommended to come with a local tour company that can provide transportation to this off-the-beaten-path location as well as a multilingual translator.
In contrast to the mom-and-pop feel of the Taiwan Cocoa farm, Fu Wan Chocolate provides a luxurious setup for visitors wanting to learn more about chocolate. In fact, Fu Wan’s chocolate can be found at Michelin-star restaurants like Taipei’s LongTail. Once a B&B for visitors, the grounds of Fu Wan Chocolate have evolved into a fine chocolate shop, restaurant, and DIY center for both large and small groups visiting Taiwan.
Guests can also take a quick tour and learn about cacao cultivation. Fu Wan Chocolate collaborates with around 100 chocolate farms that provide the raw materials for their chocolate production. One can see a live factory on the second floor!
Started by the first certified chocolate taster in Taiwan, Warren Hsu, Fu Wan’s chocolates have won numerous awards in Asia and beyond. Check out their chocolate shop to try exclusively-Taiwan creations, such as
Sakura shrimp white chocolate
Cacao Syrup Milk Tea
Matcha Chocolate Latte
Chocolate Stout Beer
Red Jade Tea Chocolate
Reservations can be made here or directly through the center: https://www.fuwanshop.com/