Caffes and Coffee Culture in Korea

I truly have a special place in my heart for Korean caffes. Everywhere you turn, you can find a selection of caffes to stop and relax. It is the best escape from the heat/cold and provides an overall amazing environment to hang out with friends or study.

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Cafe front in Samcheong-dong

This time, I will talk about different types of caffes and caffe culture. Koreans of all ages, especially teenagers and young adults, fill these caffes by themselves or in pairs and will sit for a long period of time just people watching, chatting, or studying. Urban areas such as Seoul have the highest concentration of caffes and despite the countless numbers of caffes side-by-side, they do not seem to lack business because sitting at a caffe is just so popular!

  • coffeesmith and Caffe Bene

These are two of my favorite chain caffes and they are very popular throughout Korea, especially in Seoul. You will most likely find these chain caffes in every neighborhood. The owners are large companies and the huge celebrities often advertise for the caffes and they are usually packed. They are also open for long hours, some 24/7 because people always need a place to study, escape the crowds, or have a cup of coffee after a big meal.

The coffee and desserts are delicious, but pretty much all the same and nothing special. These caffes are just for people to relax and hang out with friends or go on dates over a cup of coffee.

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I took this picture of coffeesmith in Garosugil, a famous tree-lined street in Sinsa-dong Gangnam filled with cute clothing and accessory boutiques and stores. This area is known for its trendy shoppers, and coffeesmith usually has this open style caffe to allow people watching. Many celebrities and idols have been spotted at this caffe, which makes it even better for people watching!

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Green tea frappe and a chocolate frappe. It was a warm day and we were tired from walking up and down Garosugil, so we decided to splurge on a nice, refreshing drink. 시원하다~~~ ^^

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A view from the top floor of the coffeesmith.

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Standard Caffe Bene

I must say that caffe bene is one of the most saturated caffes in Seoul. It can be found everywhere along with Angel-in-us, Tom-n-Toms, and Holly’s Coffee. Cafes like these do not provide the best quality cup of coffee made from organic coffee beans, but the environment is always nice for a quick coffee break and the drinks are not overly expensive (even though they all are dollar or two more than American Starbucks).

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Quiet interior of a Caffe Bene in Dongdaemun

  • Independent small cafes

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If you dig a little deeper into the alleyways of Seoul, you will find small, independently owned caffes. These caffes are usually uniquely decorated with trinkets and gadgets. The smell of coffee beans is stronger because these caffes focus on a smaller selection of coffees and beverages.

20130519_131045 I came across this cute caffe, called 꿀다방 (Ggooldabang) or Honey Cafe, located in Yeonnamdong (exit 2 of Hongdae Station Line 2).

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It was always on the way to the subway station from my guesthouse, so I would always stop by for an Americano. The barista recognized me after the 2nd time and gave me a stamp card with 5 stamps! She asked me where I was from and we had a short conversation in English. If you are looking to meet great, friendly people, I highly recommend just talking to a barista from a small cafe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis next cafe is called Dingdong Cafe and is located in the back alleys of Hongdae. It has a cute travel theme with posters of images from all around the world. It’s also very quiet when we visited, so the barista talked to us when he heard us speaking english. He was very nice and actually spoke English quite well!

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20130507_135528 Clean and simple is common in most Korean cafes

Samcheong-dong is an area near Gwanghwamun famous for their cafes. There are cafes lined one after the other and couples and friends enjoy cafe hopping between shoppinig. The cafes are cute, but the prices in coffee are on the higher end. This place is definitely great for a stroll and picture taking!

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Cute, retro style cafe in Samcheongdong

  • Book cafes

Book, or manhwa, cafes are also very common. Some cafes are built mainly for manhwa reading, but others just have many books for relaxing while you drink your coffee.

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Enjoying a patbingsu while reading manhwa in a book cafe in Hyeri Art Village, Paju

20130516_151402Hyeri Art Village is a quiet area located in a city called Paju north of Seoul. It is near the DMZ and this area is filled with artist studios and workshops. There are a lot of art everywhere and caffes for the artists to relax. I definitely recommend the book cafe and the chocolate cafe!

Whew! This was quite a long entry! I hope you enjoyed it. I really wish we had such cute caffes where I live in America! And this many! Caffes in Korea are definitely worth checking out and exploring regardless if you enjoy coffee or not. I hope you guys can check it out someday and please tell me about the ones you liked. ^^

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2 thoughts on “Caffes and Coffee Culture in Korea

  1. Pingback: Garosu-gil (가로수길) | Lovely Seoul

  2. Pingback: Cà phê ở Hàn Quốc | TrangVivi's Blog

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