Food

Her tea cocktails at Indulge Experimental Bistro tell the story of Taiwan: meet Grace Tsai


For two nights, on July 17 and 18, Tsai will bring a taste of Taipei to Hong Kong at Carlyle & Co, a private members’ club in the Rosewood hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, as part of its Street Food Series: Taiwan event.
Inside Indulge Experimental Bistro in Da’an, Taipei. Photo: Indulge Experimental Bistro

Indulge Experimental Bistro is intended to be an embodiment of Taiwanese culture and history. Tsai says the bar serves as one of the first introductions to Taiwan for many foreign visitors, making it an important cultural touchpoint.

“We have this saying: from our land to the world,” Tsai says, citing the bar’s ethos of sharing the essence of Taiwan through cocktails.

Tsai at Indulge Experimental Bistro, where she makes cocktails that take customers “from our land to the world”. Photo: Indulge Experimental Bistro
Tsai emphasises Taiwan is a melting pot, noting how the island’s history of colonisation by countries including the Netherlands and Japan has shaped its tea culture.

Tea is revered in Taiwan. Its long history of tea cultivation has led to the development of numerous varieties, each with its own characteristics.

From the famed oolong tea to lesser-known varieties such as Ruby Red tea and the Alishan High Mountain tea that are rarely exported, Taiwanese tea has a variety of flavours and traditions.

I’m learning new things every day. It’s not just working

Grace Tsai

Tsai’s approach to making drinks is deeply personal and reflective. Each cocktail is designed to be a sensory journey combining past, present and future.

The menu starts with classic cocktails, such as the French 75, chosen for their ability to complement a wide range of foods and open up the palate. From there, the drinks become more contemporary, with local ingredients, including tea, playing a central role.

Tsai believes in creating drinks that linger in the memory like a cherished souvenir from a trip.

Taiwan is known for producing some of the best teas in the world, and Tsai uses many of them in her drinks. Photo: Reuters

She uses unusual ingredients such as dried radish and cudweed, which she hopes encourage patrons to explore the island’s culinary heritage.

“In Taiwan we have a very famous tourist spot called Jiufen [Old Street]. Basically every tourist goes there. When we present a drink, we tell them, ‘Hey, you can find this in Jiufen easily.’ So they have a sip of the drink, then go to the land and find the real thing,” Tsai says.

A customer’s journey in Taiwan may begin at Indulge, but it usually does not end there.

For Tsai, the creative process is a journey of constant learning and curiosity. She draws inspiration from Taiwan’s diverse landscapes and regional differences.

Indulge Experimental Bistro’s Flora Vintage cocktail, made with Spirit of Hven Hvenus Rye Whisky, honey, Mancino vermouth and rose. Photo: Indulge Experimental Bistro

The contrast between the north and south of Taiwan, for instance, drives her to explore new flavours and techniques. This curiosity is essential to her craft, helping her to continually evolve and push the boundaries of cocktail making.

“I’m learning new things every day. It’s not just working. If you feel like you’re working here, then you [should] quit. We never want you to feel like you’re working here,” Tsai says. This philosophy underscores her commitment to personal and professional growth.

Those who attend the pop-up at Carlyle & Co will be met with a menu of 24 unique cocktails featuring tea leaves sourced from nearly 270 Taiwanese plantations.

The Club Bar and Lounge at Carlyle & Co, where Tsai will be holding a pop-up on July 17 and 18. Photo: Carlyle & Co

By bringing the flavours of Taipei to Hong Kong, Tsai is not only celebrating a milestone – Indulge celebrates its 15th anniversary this year – but is also sharing a piece of Taiwan with the world.

For her, the legacy of Indulge is not just its cocktails but its ability to tell the story of Taiwan.

“What can we do in the next 15 years and the 15 years after that?” she asks out loud. The answer? Tsai sees the bistro continuing to evolve, staying rooted in Taiwanese culture but embracing new trends and innovations.



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