Prisons usually give of the image of barbed wire, high walls and solemn inmates. However, the Taitung Treatment Center Café, which is located next to the Wuling Suspension Bridge and the Luliao River, looks like a paradise on Earth. In addition to the area’s natural beauty and stunning scenery, the treatment center’s office looks like a European villa. This, combined with the center’s crisp green lawn has given it the reputation as the prettiest prison in all of Taiwan. In 2018, the center officially opened a café that allowed in outside customers. Since then, many visitors have stopped by the prison to try their coffee.
A Secluded Paradise
The Taitung Treatment Center is close to Provincial Highway 9. Getting here is convenient and there is free parking outside the center. When the café is open, all you have to do is register with the guard at the gate. From there, you can stroll around the center or enjoy a cup of coffee and some snacks. Reservations aren’t even required. You probably never thought breaking into prison would be this easy!
Walking the path leading into the treatment center will change your perspective on what prisons can look like. The center’s expansive green lawn, large pond and serene atmosphere make it seem like you’re at a resort. There isn’t a trace of harsh prison life. It’s easy to forget that this is a corrections facility. The café has indoor and outdoor seating. It’s hard to get a seat inside on weekends and holidays because the cafe gets really crowded. The outdoor seats have an incredible sweeping view of Taitung’s coastal mountains. Feel refreshed as you drink a cup of rich coffee and enjoy the pleasant scenery. You can also spend a cozy afternoon napping in a lawn chair or leisurely exploring the grounds.
Try Some Gangster Cafe
Inmates on good behavior here have the chance to make coffee. For this reason, people call the coffee here “Gangster Coffee.” The inmates aren’t simply in charge of brewing. They take care of the entire process from planting the coffee to roasting the beans and getting everything prepped. This shop can truly say its coffee is actually farm-to-table.
How did they come up with the idea to make a café? The treatment facility was formerly the Wuling Farm of Taitung’s minimum security prison. Most of the convicts were serving fixed-term sentences under five years as well as inmates undergoing treatment for substance abuse. The prison held classes in landscaping and farming so the inmates could learn useful skills. These skills would give them a fresh start and help them reenter the workforce after being released. In 2010, they started planting 12,000 Arabica coffee trees on 8.13 hectares of land. They kept everything organic over the years. This managed pest issues and increased the quality of their coffee. Finally, in 2015, they were awarded the Taitung County Government’s “Gold Product Prize.” That year, the center also invited instructors to teach harvesting, roasting and brewing skills. They hoped the inmates could use these skills once they got out of jail to find work. Getting a cup of coffee here is like giving the inmates a hearty pat on the back for their hard work.
Hidden Treats in Taitung
Besides coffee, the café also sells simple meals, roast chicken, cake, vegetables from their garden and handmade cookies. They use fresh ingredients, and their wide array of dishes is always well received. One of their specialties, “Gangster Chicken,” is quite well-known and needs to be ordered in advance before you get to the center. Such amazing chicken is something you can’t find anywhere else. The chicken they raise themselves is fresh and delicious. The skin is crispy and the tender meat melts in your mouth because they use salt and pepper to seal in the juices. Their huge portions of chow mein and fried rice are especially tasty. The tiramisu, sponge cake and other desserts are on par with other cafes just about anywhere. Their dessert with a cup of their coffee is simply amazing! In terms of drinks, they serve roselle tea and oolong tea amongst other things. The drinks are super cheap and well worth the price!
(Please Note: Don’t take photos of the café’s employees.)
Address: No. 270, Yongling Rd. Yanping Township, Taitung County
Phone number: 0966-629-911
Hours of Operation: 08:50–17:00