Chocolate On The Road: Taiwan

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“Most Asian people care about their health. And the dark or black [chocolate] means health.”

-Joyce Lee, Founder & Chocolate Maker of JL Chocolate

Since the end of the Japanese occupation in Taiwan in 1945, the island has undergone tremendous economic growth, earning it the reputation as one of the Four Asian Tigers. Even though the country is better known for its soup dumplings and bubble tea at this point, it still has a thriving culture of fine dining that is just bubbling under the surface (if you’ll excuse the pun). The popularity of Taiwanese chocolate and whiskey is on the rise, and both products have been recognized with awards in recent years.

Sugar cane, tea, coffee, and cacao are all crops that can be successfully cultivated on Taiwan due to the island’s tropical climate. Right at its treetops, it possesses all of the necessary components to produce the ideal chocolate bar. But that pesky economic development appears to be making it difficult for locals to afford agriculture at its current level of production. At least, for the time being. In today’s episode, we take a look at how locals in Taiwan are bringing tree-to-bar chocolate to the public, as well as the factors that are preventing them from producing more chocolate.

To read an article version of this episode, click here.

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Topics We Cover

  • some historical context on Taiwan and the development of agriculture in the country
  • the history of cacao’s introduction to Taiwan
  • the first chocolate manufacturers in Taiwan to use tree-to-bar methods
  • factors that encourage cocoa producers in the area and the assistance of the Taiwanese government
  • The primary impetus for customers to purchase locally produced chocolate
  • introducing the world to the deliciousness that is Taiwanese chocolate
  • Cacao from Africa sold in Taiwan and chocolate made elsewhere

Show Timeline

0:00-1:55~ Episode introduction to Taiwan as a country and cacao origin, and the format of the episode.

1:55-8:50~ History of cacao on Taiwan and the country’s first tree to bar chocolate maker, as well as some of the earliest chocolates eaten on Taiwan. (Ming Song & Julia Chiu)

8:50-15:15~ The current struggles and benefits of being a cacao farmer on Taiwan, from growing to selling at a living wage & beyond. (Arleen Huang, and Joyce & Siong-Goan Lee:)

15:15-22:10~ Warren Hsu on starting his business, expanding to sell Taiwanese chocolate internationally, and the Taiwanese concept of “Leisure Farms.”

22:10-28:55~ The African origins of K’in Cacao, sourcing from small farmers abroad, and connecting their Taiwanese audience to the family’s African roots, plus the common issues all chocolate makers are facing: education. (Vivian & Angela Yang)

28:55-31:20~ Other cacao-based businesses in development on Taiwan, and the direction of the Taiwanese chocolate industry. Also, the end of the episode.

More About Our Guests

Choose Chiu’s Chocolate is a tree-to-bar chocolate maker located in Pingtung County, Taiwan. Ming Song and Julia Chiu work together as a father-and-daughter team there. Visit Choose Chiu’s website, as well as their Facebook and Instagram pages.

Arleen Huang, Joyce and Siong-Goan Lee, both chocolate makers and cacao farmers at JL Chocolate, are the respective founders of the Pingtung Cacao Growers Association and JL Chocolate, respectively. Look at the posts that Lee and Lee have made on Facebook and Instagram.

Located just south of Kaohsiung in Taiwan, FuWan Chocolate is a bean-to-bar and pod-to-bar chocolate maker. Warren Hsu is one of the co-founders of the company. You may find them on Instagram as well as on their website.

K’in Cacao, located in Taichung, Taiwan, is run by sisters Vivian and Angela Yang, who are both chocolatiers and co-founders of the company. They make chocolates that are both creative and delectable using cacao from Africa. Be sure to check out K’in Cacao’s Facebook and Instagram pages