Unlike the wasteland of over-sized drinks and decay-proof food in the USA, the 7-11's of Taiwan are a vibrant and vital node of connection and exchange.
You would need to roll UPS, Kinko's, a train system that does not even exist in the USA, the corner cafe, snack shop, city hall and convenience store that actually had what you were looking for all into one to get what the Taiwanese have on just about every street corner.
“7″ in Taiwan is where you pay your utility bills, traffic tickets, recharge a cell phone, buy a ticket for the high-speed train that has made intra-island air travel obsolete, send a parcel or receive one as well. Here you can grab a surprising fresh and tasty boxed lunch, pull to up a an outdoor table, and plug into a free 7-11 wifi connection or enjoy a nice hang with your friends.
We just don't have these kinds of nodes of connection in the West. It would take an entire community to do what a “seven” can do in 1200 square feet of connective commercial magic.
It busy in here, but rarely rushed and with a ballet of exchange that always leaves me curiously appreciative. Perhaps it is just the particular coffee magic here that leaves me with a sense of quiet wonder. Like all coffee shops there is flow, but at “7″ there is a meticulous meditative attention to detail that always surprises my Western assumptive mind when it comes to convenience store coffee.
No stale pots of turpentine acrid burnt brew here. They have machines that froth up a surprisingly solid cup of “American Style”. And then there is the “7″ touch. A special piece of red tabbed tape that covers the hole in the top. A different ribbon of tape to insure the lid does not somehow fly off. If you want it, a cardboard collar to prevent burning your hands, and then nicely bagged with just-so handles for hanging on your scooter's utility hook. This is after all Taiwan, and to-go means on two wheels.
Like consulting an oracle, the attention given to your morning coffee is often a good indication of lies ahead in the day. I particularly enjoy the Kai Shan and Fu Cian location where there is a cat-like woman who gives the most exquisite attention to the just-so application of tape, and with attentive concern handles only the edges away from where you would drink. Graceful and thoughtful, like arranging flowers, her coffee always imbues the morning with a quietude usually found only near high mountain lakes, or the hidden inner alcoves of a temple.