Pete and I loved our all-too-brief visit to Taiwan a couple of years back. We enjoyed sightseeing in Taipei, visiting Maokong via cable car and exploring the beautiful Taroko Gorge National Park. We bought home tea and pineapple cakes, but wish we’d known to look out for the rest of these great souvenir suggestions from fellow travel bloggers.
The Best Souvenirs to Buy in Taiwan
Candy / Confectionery | Cat Socks | High Mountain Oolong & Other Teas | Kaoliang Liquor | Penis Cakes | Pineapple Cakes | Pink Heart Filter Cigarettes | Traditional Tea Sets
Candy / Confectionery
I have a thing about grocery stores when I’m traveling. There’s nothing better to me than wandering through endless aisles of interest foodie items that I’ve never seen before. So when I landed in Asia for the first time, in Taiwan, I couldn’t wait to see what treasures I could find.
Like many countries, Taiwanese people love their sweets! Alongside some local music instruments and clothing, I hauled a huge bag of unusual treats back home for gifts and souvenirs. There are lots of sweets to try on the streets that are best eaten right away, like tofu pudding called Douhua.
But the packable ones include moon cakes filled with bean paste and stamped with Chinese characters. These baked goods are found fresh during the mid-fall moon festival, but you can get them in stories year-round. I also brought back pineapple jam cakes, stretched sugar lollipops and bags of oolong tea.
Eileen blogs at Pure Wander. Find her on Instagram.
You just never know where you’ll find the perfect souvenir. In this case, it got away from me at the Shilin Night Market in Taipei. I was with a group, and everyone stopped dead in their tracks when they saw the darling cat motif socks. I adored them but kept finding reasons not to get them. I think the bargained price was three pair for US$10. What was I thinking? Why didn’t I buy? They were so easy to carry – they took up no space at all! I could have given a pair to each of two granddaughters and kept a pair for myself. And they were even all cotton.
Fortunately, I got a great photo of them, but it only makes me want to kick myself harder. Interestingly, they were made in Korea but if I’d bought them in Taiwan, they would have remained in my mind as a souvenir of that country. What was I thinking? I blame jet lag.
Carole blogs at Travels with Carole. Find her on Instagram.
High Mountain Oolong & Other Teas
Oolong has long been my favourite type of tea. After trying a particularly magical high mountain oolong from Taiwan, I have sought out and prized Taiwanese oolong above all.
When we finally made it to Taiwan last year, I made sure to seek out Taiwanese teas during our visit. We took the glass-bottomed Gondola cable car from Taipei to nearby Maokong, a tea-producing village in the lush green mountains to the east of the city. There, we ate dishes laced with local tea at a tea cafe, and browsed in the shops for souvenir teas.
We also made a trip down to Taroko Gorge National Park. After telling our guide of my love for Taiwanese tea, he took us to a small shop specialising in mountain oolongs. As we sipped samples of some of their teas, the shopkeeper showed us photos of the tea being grown, harvested and processed, before we made our choices of teas to bring home.
Quality and flavour of oolongs is variable, so I recommend finding a shop where you can sample different varieties before you buy.
Me, Kavey, here at Kavey Eats. Find me on Instagram.
Kaoliang Sorghum Wine / Liquor
Most people think of tea or pineapple cakes as traditional food souvenirs from Taiwan, but to be a true local you must buy Kaoliang liquor for that special someone back home. This fiery alcohol made from sorghum can be found at every corner 7-11 and in bulk at the supermarket. This is the adult drink of choice in Taiwan for festivals, barbeques and game playing.
The most popular kind of Kaoliang is a bottle of “58” or 58 proof fermented sorghum wine. The first time I tried it I thought I might spontaneously combust! The flavour from this crystal clear distilled liquor is much stronger than a rice wine like sake or the Korean soju but with a similar smooth aftertaste. To drink Kaoliang, a small shot is often poured at room temperature. Another way to try Taiwan’s most popular alcohol is chilled because the alcohol content content prevents freezing and makes for a smoother drink, especially in Taiwan’s hot summer months.
My favorite way to drink Kaoliang liquor, however, is as a mixer similar to vodka. For a real treat and taste of Taiwan, try making a cocktail with fresh pineapple juice and garnish with a slice of lime and a cherry. If you really want to bring someone a unique food souvenir from Taiwan, look no further than your local convenience store for a bottle of Kaoliang.
Cerise blogs at Enchanted Vagabond. Find her on Instagram.
If you are looking for a souvenir that is a little racier than the standard Taiwanese pineapple cakes, look no further than a box of giant, anatomically correct, penis shaped cakes.
The cakes originated at an infamous (and controversial) food stall in Shilin Night Market, the largest and most popular night market in Taipei. Aptly called “A Piece of Gayke” (大雕燒), the stall serves a variety of penis-shaped foods, including penis popsicles and hot dogs.
The boxed cakes are plastic wrapped and suitable for taking back home as a souvenir. Each box comes with two tasty, 18-centimeter phalluses, with flavors such as sesame and peanut, raspberry, blueberry, pomelo, and honeymelon.
Shilin Night Market is a maze, but you can find the cakes more easily in Ximending Night Market, a pedestrian shopping district that is open in the daytime as well, near Ximen MRT exit 6.
Nick Kembel blogs at Spiritual Travels. Find him on Instagram.
Have you tried pineapple cakes? They’re one of the best souvenirs to buy from Taiwan. This popular and delicious pastry has a buttery and crumbly shell (like a shortbread cookie) and is stuffed with pineapple filling. You can choose a sweet or sour type of pineapple cake. We like the sour one as it isn’t too sweet and has a more natural pineapple flavor. Some pineapple cakes’ fillings are mixed with wintermelon but it’s seen as lower quality. There are other unique flavors such as cranberry and egg yolk.
Pineapple cakes are easy to find in supermarkets, shopping centres, and speciality stores and they are available in Taiwan’s airports as last minute gifts before departure. The more well known brands cost about $10-$15 USD for a box of 10. Don’t forget to eat them quickly as they are perishable.
Our favorite brand is SunnyHills due to the crispy shell and sour pineapple filling. You can find them at their store in Nantou City along Road 139 or at the Taoyuan International Airport, Terminal 2, 2nd floor before crossing the security check.
Jackie blogs at Life of Doing. Find her on Instagram.
Pink Heart Filter Cigarettes
OK, so we don’t want to condone smoking here, but even non-smokers can appreciate how cute these La Rose Taiwanese cigarettes are. As a rare social smoker who prefers extremely light, girly menthols, these are my go-to cigarettes in Taiwan.
I usually bring a few packs of these back to Canada when I visit home (I’ve been living in Taiwan for 10 years), and they are always a huge hit among my friends there. Not only are menthol cigarettes no longer sold in Canada, but most Canadians have never even seen “popper” cigarettes that are the big trend in Taiwan and other Asian countries these days, with a little ball in the filter that you squeeze and pop for an added blast of menthol.
These dainty, ultra slim, ultra light cigarettes come in a pretty pink package, and as if that weren’t impressive enough, each cigarette has a pink heart-shaped hole cut into the filter.
At only NT110 ($3.50) they make a cute, light, and very cheap souvenir that is sure to make jaws drop. The cigarettes are available at all 7-11s and Family Marts, and if they are too girly for you, you can also go for other flavored cigarettes, such as orange or mojito, which come in handsomer packages.
Nick Kembel blogs at Spiritual Travels. Find him on Instagram.
Traditional Tea Sets
For a Taiwan souvenir that can range from purely functional to fine art, consider a traditional Chinese tea set. Used for preparing gong fu cha (Chinese tea ceremony), a typical set may include a teapot (used for brewing the tea), tiny tea cups, a gaiwan (a cup that usually comes on a saucer and has a lid but no handle, used for brewing, serving, or drinking tea), and a tea tray to place all the items on.
The best place in Taiwan to buy tea sets is on the Yingge Pottery Street in New Taipei City. Here you can find an unbelievable variety of teaware, including dirt-cheap functional ceramics, portable tea infuser bottles, Yixing teapots (the classical, unglazed variety), and ceramics so gorgeous they belong in a museum. In fact, there really is a whole museum devoted to ceramics in town. When my sister got married, my wedding gift was a gorgeous tea set purchased in Yingge!
Nick Kembel blogs at Spiritual Travels. Find him on Instagram.
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Find more of my posts on the best souvenirs to buy around the world.
With many thanks to all my contributors for helping me to compile this guide to the best souvenirs to buy in Taiwan. All images are by the authors of the relevant entry, unless credited otherwise.
Please check the customs restrictions of your home country before your trip, so that you know which food and drink souvenirs you are permitted to import.
Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!29 Comments to "The Best Souvenirs to Buy in Taiwan"
Some really cool stuff here! Those cat socks are adorable. The writer definitely should have bought some at that price!
YES! I love that people are transitioning to functional souvenirs for friends and family from their travels! I think I would totally opt for the cat socks and penis cakes. I once brought back penis pasta from Italy and it was so worth it! haha
This is so funny. When I went to Taiwan, I came home with cat socks, a traditional tea set and lots of oolong tea. Wasn’t so keen on the pineapple cake though! And of course I brought my friends a penis cake 🙂
MMMmm pineapple cakes. Those sound absolutely AMAZING! The cat socks are super adorable. As a self-proclaimed crazy cat lady I would love to have a pair of those.
If I ever get to Taiwan I will know which souvenirs I want. I love the tea sets!
Aww, the cat socks are adorable. And the penis cakes are unique. I’d love to visit Taiwan.
What an interesting list of Taiwan souvenirs! If I ever get to Taiwan, I would definitely want to get my hands on the tea sets. Tho cat socks are adorable too 🙂
If I ever visit I would buy sugar lollipops and cat socks – also a Christmas bauble if I could find one as I try and collect one from every place I visit. This was a really interesting read, and a refreshing new type of blog post. Not sure I would buy the penis cakes though!
I love those cat socks. A few of my friends are quite fond of socks and love collecting them. I think this would be like the best gift for them. And for the foodie in me, the pineapple cakes would just be perfect. A crumbly shell with pineapple filling – can almost taste it in my mouth right now.
What an unusual array of souvenirs from Taiwan! I have had moon cakes before from an Asian grocer in Providence RI, but never made fresh. I’d also love to try the pineapple cake. They sound delish. And who wouldn’t love kitty socks…I’ll take half a dozen, please! Fun gifts. Penis cakes? 😂
Those cat socks are super cute! I bought some really cool and colorful socks from Japan last year and I absolutely would love to get these cat socks too, I think I have a thing for quirky and cool socks haha. And the penis cakes are also so quirky, got to try one for sure and bring some for the family 😉 LOL!
Loving the tea set but think I’d pass on the phallus cakes LOL, might be a bit of a mouthful for the recipient:-)
Oh my god, Camilla, you made me spit out my tea! 😝😝😝😝😝
What an interesting list of souvenirs! Never heard of tofu pudding called Douhua nor the popper cigarettes. The tea-set looks adorable and phallus cakes sound….well very kinky :p But you made the pineapple cakes sound so delicious that I want to taste it like..now! That cat sock looks so very cute and I am sure you are gonna again visit Taiwan and buy a dozen for your grand-daughters 😀
I can’t believe you passed up the cat socks! Those are adorable. I’m also not a smoker but those mojito cigarettes sound interesting to try.
I love those cat socks! I have been know to bring socks back as a souvenir (I have moose socks from Canada!) – and also the local liquor on more than one occasion 🙂 Never bought penis cakes back though…
I would have bought the tea and the sugar candy, my daughter would love the cat socks…
I’m with you, I LOVE exploring grocery stores whenever I’m visiting a new place! It’s amazing the unusual things you can find in a different country. I admittedly don’t know that much about Taiwan, such as the fact that they’re famous for pineapple cake.?!? But that sounds delicious and I would happily take one home as a souvenir!
I love finding souvenirs when travelling, things which you simply cannot find back home. My favourite here would be the tea set (and the tea of course!), but I think it would be hard to go past those penis cakes! These are so quirky and friends would love them.
I am a huge fan of oolong tea and would definitely buy that! I also think those cat socks are so adorable. I don’t like wearing socks, but I would wear those 🙂
Interesting options Taiwan has. I’m not a smoker, but I must say I have never heard of pink heart cigarettes before (or anything other shape/design). Pink is my favorite color. I would have to go with the sweet pineapple cakes I think and I totally get where you are coming from on the socks. I have talked myself out of several items I really wanted and regret now. I’d almost say I’m a master at it. I even tell myself “you’re doing it again…just get it” and still don’t. Facepalm.
I heard so many great things about Taiwan, especially about the food, it suppose to be amazing 🙂 The penis cakes are hilarious, what a funny guft to bring to a party, haha….
Grocery stores are the all-time BEST place to find authentic and local gifts and souveniers anywhere in the world. Our dog would not allow me to wear cat socks…just sayin. 😉
Laughing out loud thinking of cat socks… you’ll have to google the “kitten mittens” episode of Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia for a good chuckle. For me though, I’d definitely lean toward the oolong tea, and I always like to bring back a bottle of the local liquor to share with friends at home. Love the tips.
I think Kitten Mittens is my favorite episode of IASIP!
That’s hilarious! I think the misspelling of mittens all the way through is a nice touch! 🤣🤣🤣
Tea sets are always a winner when buying souvenirs in Asian countries, but personally I’m in love with those pineapple cakes. Never heard of them, and they sound kind of strange, but just from looking at them I’m so intrigued to try one!
This article is great, Kavey, since I really only like to shop for souvenirs when I’m in another country (in general, I’m just not a shopper); I’m totally down for the CAT SOCKS! I’m bookmarking this article in case I get a chance to visit Taiwan.
Now I want to try Taiwanese high mountain oolong tea. Do you have a particular favorite brand?
I’m an occasional smoker and while I don’t smoke menthols I think I would pick up a few packs as novelty gifts for others!
I’m the same, I’m not big into shopping but I do love buying souvenirs! With the mountain oolong in not sure I was ever aware of brands per se, as we mostly bought from shops representing a single farm’s output. In the city stores, they will no doubt have a lot of different producers represented. We always tasted and went by our taste buds!