Taiwan does not have a big pub culture; however, Taipei and some of the larger cities do have some decent bars. Expect to pay NT$150 up for a beer. The few clubs also tend to be dancing girls in bikinis style; young kids tend to prefer karoake on a night out.
Coffee culture has exploded and it won't take you long to find a good coffee shop even in the smaller towns.
Tea is a fundamental part of Chinese life. In fact, an old Chinese saying identifies tea as one of the seven basic necessities of life (along with fuel, oil, rice, salt, soy sauce and vinegar). Taiwan's long growing season and hilly terrain are perfectly suited for producing excellent tea, especially high-mountain oolong, which is prized among tea connoisseurs the world over (and makes a great gift for the folks back home).
There are two types of teashops in Taiwan. The first are traditional teashops (more commonly called teahouses) where customers brew their own tea in a traditional clay pot, choosing from several types of high-quality leaves, and sit for hours playing cards or Chinese chess. These places can be found tucked away in alleys in almost every urban area, but are best visited up in the mountains. Taipei's Maokong is an excellent place to experience a traditional Taiwanese teahouse. The second are the stands found on every street corner. These specialise in bubble tea – a mixture of tea, milk, flavouring, sugar and giant black tapioca balls. Also called pearl tea or boba cha, the sweet drink is popular with students, who gather at tea stands after school to socialise and relax, much in the way that the older generation gathers at traditional teahouses.
Taiwan is home to a world-class coffee culture – certainly the best in Asia. Not only is Taiwan big on coffee consumption – good-quality coffee can be easily found in big cities such as Taipei, Tainan and Kaohsiung – but the island is experimenting with growing the stuff as well and has recently begun to export it.
The main coffee-growing regions are mountainous areas in the south, including Dongshan in Tainan, Dewen in Sandimen, Pingtung, Gukeng in Yunlin and Alishan in Chiayi. The two main factors limiting Taiwan coffee exports are costs (labour is more expensive here than, say, Vietnam) and land in the mountains often belongs to indigenous peoples who often prefer to protect the land from development, so plantations are limited in area.
Fresh-fruit stands selling juices and smoothies are all over Taiwan – these drinks make wonderful thirst quenchers on a hot summer day. All you have to do is point at the fruits you want (some shops have cut fruit ready-mixed in a cup) and the person standing behind the counter will whiz them up in a blender for you after adding water or milk. Especially good are iced-papaya milkshakes.
Popular juices include hāmìguā (哈密瓜; honeydew melon), xīguā (西瓜; watermelon), píngguǒ (蘋果; apple) and gānzhè (甘蔗; sugarcane). Sugarcane juice is usually sold at speciality stands selling raw sugarcane rather than ordinary fruit stands.
The Taiwanese tend to be fairly moderate drinkers (with some exceptions, such as banquets, which are a time when much drinking occurs), but Taiwan does have a number of locally produced inebriants well worth trying. The most famous of these is gāoliáng jiǔ (高粱酒; Kaoliang liquor). Made from fermented sorghum, Kaoliang is produced on Kinmen and Matsu, the islands closest to mainland China. Another local favourite is wéishìbǐ (維士比; Whisbih), an energy drink with a fine mixture of dāngguī (當歸; a medicinal herb), ginseng, taurine, various B vitamins and caffeine – and some ethyl alcohol to give it a kick.