On the contrary, I personally think coffee is not that expensive in Seoul. The truth is, it’s almost the same amount that I spend on my regular brew at my local coffee shop. At some café’s (in Seoul), even cheaper.
Back in Cebu I used to tutor English to Korean kids part-time as my way of earning money to pay the bills. After our session, my students would sometimes take me out to dinner. That’s how I got introduced to the world of kimchi and Korean BBQs. But one thing I never realized was their love for coffee. In fact, I can’t recall a single moment about any of my students being hooked to those very addictive beans. It turned out to be a secret that I would have to find out myself 10 years later.
So why is it that Koreans love coffee so much? The answer may be the same as to why we love chocolates so much. There may be a lot of ideas but one thing is for sure, drinking coffee is a way of life for the Koreans. After all, drinking coffee is perhaps a good thing that you can get addicted to.
One of the things that amazed me when I got the chance to travel to Seoul is the huge variety of coffee shops that you see around the city. They are everywhere; be it a tiny alley or a tourist destination, you’ll never be disappointed. You’ll see about four or five coffee shops across each other in just one stretch of a street. What’s interesting is, some of the coffee shops have a theme like the one Sean and I went to near Gyeongbukgong Palace. It’s called Christmas Jamong. It sure feels like Christmas when you sip your cuppa and see all the ornaments in the shop.
While these shops offer a lot of coffees on the list, a few choices of tea can also be ordered in the selection. Some bigger cafés offer small eats in the menu like sandwiches or pasta.
Here are some of the coffee shops that Sean and I were able to try during our 4-day sojourn in Seoul.
Coffee Teacher. I had a latte here on our first afternoon in Seoul but didn’t manage to finish the cup. I used to be such a caffeine queen before, that if I had one too many cups, I’d end up counting sheep in bed.
Beans Bins. Green tea this time to help digest the healthy dinner of vegetables and shrimps we had at Doota Mall.
Holly’s Coffee. Judging from the large number of chains that are all over the city, Holly’s Coffee is probably one of the biggest in Seoul. Their signature Vanilla Delight is indeed very delightful. Perfect for a nippy springtime in Seoul.
Café Eat. Few of the reasons why I’d rather choose a mom and pop café over the big ones in town is that they’re much more quiet and homey. It’s like one of your friendly neighborhood coffee shops, where you can just step out of your house in your pajamas, enjoy your morning paper or read your favourite book and still feel comfortable. Eat Café perfectly defines this. It’s not a big place but the best thing about it is that it uses organic ingredients and they bake their own pastries too. Definitely one of my favourites.
Coffee Lab Express. I’ve seen a few chains around Seoul but the tiniest branch I’ve seen is near Hongik University. Good for to-go orders. Cute isn’t it?
Carpe Diem. The place is pretty neat and clean and has a nice ambience. What’s more is that they also use organic ingredients. And although it has a warm touch and friendly staff, it’s my least favourite. The one I’ve been to is in Noryangin Station. That means it could be very busy and loud during peak hours plus it’s very close to Noryangin Fish Market.
Christmas Jamong. Another one that offers organic menu is this coffee shop. Themed coffee shops in Korea are very popular and I think it’s a very clever strategy to attract coffee-drinkers in their shops. From the name itself, everyday is Christmas day in Christmas Jamong.
Think Coffee. If there’s one coffee shop in the big city that I very much like without any particular reason other than it has a nice selection of organic menu on the list, it should be this place. The shop is very neat and spacious as well.
I was able to snap some other coffee shops that we’ve passed by along the way. But trust me, these are probably only a tenth of all the different coffee shops in Seoul.
Competition doesn’t seem to be a problem in some areas like this one in Hongik University. The coffee shops are everywhere, some are even attached to each other and still be full of customers.
There is no doubt South Korea is one big coffee-loving country.