Taiwan is a subtropical island offering long stretches of valleys growing some of the world’s finest fruits and mountains dotted with tea farms. Naturally, your best bet for take-home gifts are agricultural products… high-quality teas, dried fruits, that sort of thing, right?
But….Taiwan is also a high-tech powerhouse, home to some of the world’s top makers of laptops, hard drives & every other high-tech gadget you can think of. So maybe high tech take home gifts are the way to go?
But hold on a minute. Taiwan is also an artistic melting pot, boasting a fusion of traditional cultural traditions from China, Japan, and the island’s own indigenous tribes. So maybe bringing home gifts of a more artistic and cultural bent is the way to go?
Look, Taiwan is not a generic vacation destination. Why return from a trip to Taiwan with generic gifts for friends, family, and colleagues back home when you can customize your gift to fit the person? Who gets what? Let Taiwan Scene break it down for you!
Best souvenirs for tea aficionados: Taiwanese Oolong Tea
Tea has been Taiwan’s best-known agricultural products for centuries, and visiting tea plantations is one of Taiwan’s top tourist activities. These plantations stretch from Northern Taiwan (indeed, you can visit a few without even leaving Taipei) to the southern tip of the islands. So tea from your travels is always a good gift idea. If you want to bring some home for a friend who really knows their tea, we recommend that you pick up Oolong tea from Lu Ding Ji tea farm in Luye, Taitung. Luye is best known for hosting Taiwan’s annual hot air balloon festival, but the area is also home to some amazing tea farms. Lu Ding Ji’s been in business for three decades, farms organically, and is particularly famous for its unique Red Quinoa Oolong tea, which combines the mellow, smooth taste of fine Oolong with the nutrition of red quinoa, making it the perfect gift for the tea-lovers in your life.
Where to buy it?
- Online Store：Lu Ding Ji
- Lu Ding Ji B&B：台東縣鹿野鄉龍田村龍馬路251巷10號
- Taitung County Farmer’s association Market：950台東縣台東市新生路195號
Best souvenirs for friends with a sweet tooth: Pineapple cake & Qi Ma Su
Ok, so this one is a toss-up, so we’re going to suggest two different items here. Heck, you might as well just get both.
Taiwanese Pineapple cake is an obvious must-buy. In the Taiwanese dialect, the pronunciation of Pineapple is “Ong lai” （旺來）, which also sounds like “bring fortune,” making this popular gift item as auspicious as it is delicious. If you’re going to bring a Pineapple cake to friends, why not bring the most sought-after cake in Taiwan? Kao Nuxu fits the bill nicely, having been made famous after being featured on a number of Asian food programs. Its fame is well earned, being made from a recipe passed down from a venerable bakery in Taiwan, with each pineapple cake crafted from fresh, local ingredients, and crafted to perfection before being stamped with a “TW” to signify its country of origin. Kao Nuxu is definitely a great, sweet local gift.
Where to buy it?
Less known (but no less delicious) are a Taiwanese snack known as Qi Ma Su.
Fragrant, crisp, and delicious, these sweet cubes look a bit like the popular American Rice Crispy treats, but the resemblance is only visual. Like many of Taiwan’s best agricultural products, the best Qi Ma Su comes from Taitung. We recommend a brand from Taitung county called Ching Tse, which makes there Qi Ma Su from high-quality local agricultural products like red quinoa, Oolong Tea, rice and pineapple cultivated. The product has no preservatives and comes in over ten different flavors. If you’re looking to bring a sweet taste of Taiwan back to friends, Ching Tse’s Qi Ma Su is a great way to do it.
Where to buy it?
Best souvenir for beer lovers：Taiwanese Craft Beer
Nothing says I thought of you while on vacation to the beer lover in your life better than bringing a few bottles of local beer back to share while relating your adventures abroad. When returning from Taiwan, your gift is bound to also carry with it something of a “whaaaaaaat…?” factor, as very few people outside of Taiwan are aware of Taiwan’s awesome craft beer scene. So bringing home a few bottles of a local Taiwanese beer isn’t a bad conversation starter either. Need some suggestions? We’ve written quite a bit about Taiwan’s craft beer scene recently. You can contact the makers directly, or, in a pinch, you can find some of the brands at markets around Taiwan.
Best souvenirs for wives and girlfriends：Made in Taiwan Skincare products
Taiwanese women are known for being somewhat fanatical when it comes to skincare, which makes sense when you consider that the country as a whole gets a lot of sunshine – even in the winter. So it’s only natural that Taiwanese women are well-practiced don’t cut corners when it comes to taking care of their skin. As a result, Taiwanese skincare products are some of the best you’ll find in Asia, and make great take-home gifts. We recommend pretty much anything from a company called Cha Tzu Tang, which produces skin care products using all local products from Taiwanese farms.
Their Taiwan Incense Cedar Leaf Repairing Hand Cream (肖楠葉護手霜) is a good choice for a grown and made in Taiwan gift, as it’s made from plants all endemic to Taiwan including a local leaf called Xiao Nanmu, Taiwan incense cedar leaf extract, and nourishing camellia oil. Its suitable for all type of skin, and makes a great gift. Cha Tzu Tang products can be found at physical stores and online store, and it’s also sold at the international airport for last minute shoppers.
Where to buy it?
Online store: Cha Tzu Tang
Best souvenirs for husbands and boyfriends：Taiwanese Liquor
OK, we know a few ladies that can knock ‘em back as well as any dude, so apologies in advance to anyone who might take offense to the idea that a few kinds of booze may generally be enjoyed more frequently by men than women. Visitors from Scotland are often surprised to learn that Taiwan produces excellent whiskeys, including a few that have won international awards at whiskey-tasting competitions. So a bottle of Taiwanese whiskey is something that anyone who enjoys the hard stuff will appreciate. Taiwan’s Kaoliang Wine is a drink generally more appreciated by husbands over their wives. It’s strong but goes down smooth. Maybe a bit too smooth. We recommend you pick up a bottle of Kinmen 58% Kaoliang Wine at any liquor store, or at the airport on the way out.
Best souvenirs for Artists: Taiwanese Handicrafts
Nobody knows how challenging it is to make a living from their art more than artists themselves. So friends and family who make their living (or aspire to make their living) through art alone generally appreciate gifts bought from fellow artists abroad. Art, of course, is a very broad subject, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The northernmost section of the Weekend Jianguo Market is where you’ll find local Taipei artists plying their craft, so go have a look (but only on the weekends; on the weekdays the place is a parking garage). You’ll also find local artists selling their work most days inside and outside of Ximending’s Red House theater, which is a landmark worth visiting.
Best Souvenirs for overseas Taiwanese
If you’re returning from a visit to Taiwan and looking for a gift for someone born in Taiwan who may be feeling a bit homesick for the place, something designed and made in Taiwan that also embodies traditional Taiwanese motifs will make a most touching gift. We recommend a piece of glasswork made by Mingshun Glass, a company committed to preserving traditional Taiwanese glass patterns. Their glasswork is embossed with diamonds, waves and various flower pattern that represent the bucolic scenery of old Taiwan.
They also integrate their glass work designs into various pieces, such as their classic candle lamp designed by Mingshun which uses two different classic glass patterns to create an exquisite three-dimensional object d’art with a definite retro feel that will definitely be well appreciated by any overseas Taiwanese who might be pining for home.
Where to buy it?
Best Souvenirs for tech geeks
Though in English / Australian parlance, “Cheap as Chips” refers to an item as inexpensive as chips (or fries in America), the phrase takes on a whole new meaning in Taiwan where you can buy locally made computer memory chips for about the same price as a bag of imported potato chips. Seriously, if you need to stock up on a few extra memory cards for your camera, flash drives to store computer data, or even an external hard drive or two, Taiwan is the place to do it. Computer stores are all over, but if you’re a computer geek yourself, the most fun area to shop is the Guanghua Digital Plaza Computer Market (光華商場) in Taipei, a quick walk from the Zhongxiao Xinsheng MRT station. In addition to the main multi-story computer malls, there are tons of little shops in the alleys around the neighborhood where computer nuts can totally geek out.
Best place for general “Memories of Taiwan” souvenirs
We’ll use our final category not so much for any one specific souvenir, but for a neighborhood that’s just a great place to purchase all sorts of items with which you can either remember your own trip or gift to friends back home. The Dadaocheng neighborhood (read also: 15 suggestions for a day in Dadaocheng) is about as excellent a place to good souvenir swag as you’re likely to find in Taipei. You’ll find everything from hand-carved chopsticks to hand-thrown pottery, traditional Taiwanese style slippers to handmade notebooks and bamboo bags.
If you’re looking for something for kids, swing by the Taiyuan Asian Puppet Theatre Museum (台原亞洲偶戲博物館) and pick up a couple of traditional Taiwanese puppets.