Being vegan is a smart option for me, if not to save my bank account from excess macaron consumption, but I will still go to the ends of the earth for vegan variations. I visited Jiaoxi for one reason and one reason only: vegan macarons from a vegan bakery rumoured to sell this coveted treat.
The Vegan Heaven store front has only been open for one month, although the business has been taking orders for two years. English is limited, but there's enough spoken for basic communication, and the owner spends as much time as necessary using her computer to accurately translate every item in stock that day. Everything she does is with an excited bounce, and it's catching. The shop decoration is well thought out and branded exquisitely. A lot of love and thought has gone into the business, and it shows.
The following items were on offer (and possibly more on the drink front):
There were seven macaron flavours on offer when I visited: vanilla with salt chocolate, matcha green tea, sesame, raspberry, chocolate lavender, blackcurrant, and coffee with salt caramel.
A selection of biscuits: 100% cocoa, vanilla, and nuts. None are too sweet and the vanilla is your typical moorish biccie – you'd finish a box quickly.
Coffee: American coffee, soy milk latte, almond soy milk latte, caramel hazelnut latte. Each is available hot or cold. Specify sweetness. They also have tea, although I didn't catch what types.
Lemon vegan yoghurt smoothie – delicious. Someone ordered this I was given a sample of the leftovers.
Tarts and cakes:
- Caramel apple with almond soy cream centre.
- Sea salt chocolate with soy caramel sauce centre. This decadent little pie made a good breakfast for me the next morning. The caramel centre is what makes the tart. Crispy crumb crust.
- Coconut cinnamon pudding.
- Lime – tart and sweet with a crumb crust. Perfect if you love citrus, which I do. I didn't order this, but she included it in my order as a gift.
- Raspberry panna cotta.
- Carrot (organic) cake.
- Lemon cake.
- Banana cake – Superb moist texture, not a lot of sugar. Great for an afternoon treat if you want something sweet but not overpowering.
- Chocolate tiramisu – so smooth. No coffee. The faux cream is incredibly rich. Recommended.
- Madeleines – Individually packaged for takeaway. Like a little cake.
Of the macarons, coffee and raspberry were the winners. The texture wasn't spot on, but the effort is apparent and they are damned good. We discussed recipe development and she is precise and devoted to creating the best version possible of everything she sells.
For a box of six vegan macarons the cost is somewhere between £7-8. I make these delicacies at home, and they are labour and time intensive. What I mean to say is the price represents all that goes into the craft and is thus reasonable.
Vegan Heaven in Jioxi (Yilan) is an easy 90 minutes from Taipei by train. Jiaoxi is also a hot spring town, so it's possible to hit Vegan Heaven for sugar lunch, then soak your bones for a couple of hours before sugar dinner. To find the bakery, simply leave the station and walk straight up the road until it ends. Turn left and it's next to the hotel on the corner. It opens around noon.
The hospitality and quality of this one vegan bakery made my visit to Taiwan worthwhile. I'd skip across the globe for more, and when I said I would be back next time with my partner, she was so excited threw in a bag of cookies.
“For your husband,” she said, and gave me a big hug. As I walked down the road, I looked back to see her still waving from the window.