Soap Making Class at Uni Jun in Taipei

Wherever we go, I try to find some sort of class to take - making buckwheat noodles in Japan, tapestry in Edinburgh, weaving in Luang Prabang, cheese making in Milan, the list goes on and on.

So, when my research led me to a soap making class at Uni Jun in Taipei, my interest was piqued. I wanted to check the place out before booking into the class. When we stopped by one afternoon, both Zac and I fell in love with the place, the product and the people and booked the class right away. 

I was first struck with the environment at Uni Jun. The adorable shop is located in one of the oldest parts of Taipei and an area where it seems the government has put some effort into saving the older buildings and filling the space with local talent. The decor is right up our alley as it's a combo of this older style rehabbed building with a very clean and modern interior. The other thing I noticed right away was the huge cabinet housing some of the most beautiful handmade soaps I have seen in a while. Totally gorgeous in their shape and detail. I was drawn in by the hand cut bricks of soap and the round relief patterns that look like old Chinese coins. I was immediately smitten.

But then came the real love. As we started looking at the soaps, we were approached by this super kind gal who works in the shop (Aveline) who asked us if we would like to wash our hands with some of their aged horse hair oil soap. Aged soap! Horse hair oil! These were words I've never heard associated with soap. Ever.

I've also never been propositioned by a soap shop to actually give their products a test drive, which I should say is genius. Aveline instructed us on how to best wash our hands using the soap and the the best way to dry them to ensure the maximum benefit. Straight away I was in love. The soap felt amazing in my hands as bubbles began to form and a silkiness that I was not used to took over. After I rinsed my hands and patted them dry I was blown away. They were so soft! It felt like I had moisturized but all I had done was washed them. 

Ok, so all this is leading up to us deciding that we wanted to make soap, and we wanted to make soap at Uni Jun. I had a brief discussion with Aveline about sensitive skin and ensuring that no horses are harmed in the extraction of the oils from their hair. She told me they import the oil from New Zealand and understands the horses are not harmed. Aveline mentioned that the horse hair oil is very good for sensitive skin and is a key part to their secret recipe for their line of soaps they create. 

I chickened out a bit and decided not to use the horse hair oil in my soap. Zac and I wanted different soaps from one another and so he decided to go ahead and make their proprietary blend of soap with some added essential oils. After consulting with Aveline, I decided to make a soap that contained avocado oil, coconut oil, macadamia nut oil and some silk. Silk in my soap! This was going to be the most luxurious bar ever.

Our soap making costume. 

Zac and I got suited up in our provided denim aprons and protective eyewear and got to making. Aveline did the chemistry work, figuring the ratio for the oils, and we got to selecting our essential oils.

Once the ingredients are selected, there's really not a lot of technical stuff to do except to stir. And stir. And stir some more. Consistency is key here and stirring at the same rate in the same direction for up to an hour is necessary. Luckily for our weak little arms we only stirred for about 20 minutes before Aveline offered up use of "the machine". We gladly accepted (though I was sort of eager to prove I could maintain the stirring for an entire hour) and our oils were transformed. The consistency thickened, the color deepened and the shininess transformed before our very eyes. 

Within minutes we poured our liquid into the long rectangular form, casually worked the bubbles out of the mix and then banged the forms on the ground to ensure a full reduction of bubbles. We labeled our creations and they were put on the aging shelf along with the other beautiful soaps the team and other customers have recently made.

As we were leaving, Aveline reminded us that we should let the soap aged for at least three months but would be great if we could wait longer. We may just need to purchase a bar that is already aged one or two years for immediate use and allow our soap to age as long as possible.

All I know is that I need to make room in my bag for some soap and will likely need to ensure I have enough to last me for a while. Or I'll just be shipping soap wherever we happen to be in the world.

If you are visiting Taipei you should definitely stop by Uni Jun to either buy soap directly and/or to take a soap making class. Just a warning though: when you make the soap, you will be creating one kilo of soap per person. That's a lot of handmade soap. If you aren't coming to Taipei, you should visit their website and take a look around. They ship!

{Thanks to Uni Jun and especially Aveline for sponsoring this blog post. Of course as you know, all opinions are our own.}

Additional photos of our soap making class: