We take a trip to Kaohsiung now, to visit a pastry shop boasting a century of business. The store has been handed down from one generation to the next since 1905, and has lots of special projects afoot. One of its long-standing traditions is pastries shaped like Chinese chess pieces. It''s also an inclusive employer, which hires people with disabilities to be part of the team. Visitors say stepping into the store is like taking a trip down memory lane.

Sometimes life just checkmates you. In such situations, why not make the most of it? If you play chess with these pieces, you can pick up an opponent’s tiles and snack on them. Chess pastries are this store’s signature product.

I played Chinese chess as a kid, so it really reminds me of childhood, and the mung bean pastries just melt in the mouth.

The store offers Original Mung Bean Pastries and Sesame Flavor Pastries. It won second place in Kaohsiung’s top local gourmet gifts contest. The edible chess pieces were the brainwave of a chef from the second generation.

Chang Mei-hua

Joywell Pastry shop manager

Actually I should call her grandma. She had five children, and the youngest son loved playing chess. Whenever he went out to play chess he’d forget to come back for dinner. And then grandma would say “Why don’t you just eat the chess pieces?”

The pastry chefs knead the dough and roll them out into even balls before pressing them through a mold. In 2012 the store opened its “Welcome Kitchen,” where cooks with disabilities get a chance to spread their wings.

This store is over 100 years old and its walls are hung with old photos, showing its history from founding during the Japanese colonial era in 1905, through multiple generations, all the way to the fifth generation who hold the baton today.

Chang Mei-hua

Joywell Pastry shop manager

From the first generation until today, we’ve handed it on generation after generation. That’s how we’ve kept going 100 years.

The sixth generation is now stepping in. But preserving traditional pastry-making skills while adapting to the vicissitudes of the modern market hasn’t been easy. The generational differences gave layman manager Chang Mei-hua quite a steep learning curve.

Chang Mei-hua

Joywell Pastry shop manager

Our profits fell by at least 40% during the pandemic. The government offered a stimulus package, which was extremely helpful for us, actually.

And chess pieces are not the only surprises in store. You can also get pastries with propitious phrases on them, such as “Flying Colors in Your Exams!” – those make great gifts. It’s a treasure trove not just for dessert lovers, but also anyone with a sweet tooth for Taiwanese history.