If you love coffee, come to South Korea. There’s a cafe on every corner. Many times two, three or more cafes per block. And by cafe, I mean a really cool, uniquely decorated cafe. Often decorated with reclaimed materials, individual arts, and where seriously good baristas will serve you one of the best cups of coffee you will taste. Well, at least until you walk into the next cafe!
I’ve have sipped a vanilla latte in a flower shop/cafe nestled in a small village, savored a silky cappuccino in a coffee roasting house built inside a refurbished grainery with foliage growing up through the dirt floor, and relaxed over a macchiato while viewing Joseon Dynasty era relics sitting in an art deco chair atop a glass floor in downtown Seoul.
Two of my very favorite cafes in South Korea are on Jeju Island. One is Codeine Coffee Roasters and the other is Cafe Dat Byeol.
Codeine is near the Yongmeori Coast and where the famous Sanbangsan Mountain stands guard high above the ocean. Codeine roasts two special coffee blends daily with their in-house roaster. Musical instruments are scattered throughout the upcycled shipping container building and where sunset yoga is also held on the roof. Cards, chess and board games invite patrons to sit, sip, and stay awhile. Delicious, dense, fudgy brownies are beyond divine and the service is always outstanding!
My other favorite cafe, Cafe Dat Byeol is owned by the talented artist and painter, Mi Gyeong Park, and sits adjacent to Hyeopjae Beach. The cafe entrance is at street level where you place your order and then choose to go either downstairs in the library area or upstairs to relax. The cafe is filled with Mi Gyeong’s paintings and a library of Korean magazines and books. The wall upstairs is made entirely of glass which gives you the illusion of perching high atop the crystal clear, turquoise blue water. Off in the distance you can view the nearby Biyangdo Island and if you’re lucky, you can see the occasional sailboats drifting by. Mi Gyeong is a talented baker with seasonal treats to accompany your coffee or cold brew of choice.
Of course Starbucks is here as is Caffe Pascucci, an excellent Italian coffee chain. There are many other South Korean chains that serve tasty coffees, teas, and other sweets and eats. Angel in Us, Caffé Bene, Ediya, Hollys Coffee (no apostrophe), A Twosome Place and, finally, 7-Eleven, the international convenience store. Which, I must mention, provides a competitive 1000-won (about 87¢ USD) cup of surprisingly good Americano, plain ole black coffee.
With the many individual and unique cafes serving such delicious coffees, I rarely partake of chain coffee these days. I try to support the small, local businesses with their always welcoming smiles and gracious service most often lacking in the “chain stores.”
The brilliant creativity, engaging style and entrepreneurial spirit of these one-of-a-kind cafes never ceases to amaze and impress me here in South Korea and on the road wherever I’ve traveled.
Hallim-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju
Anthracite Coffee Roasters
564 Hallim-ro, Hallim-eub,
Codeine Coffee Roasters
76, Sagyebuk-ro, Andeok-myeon,
Seogwipo, Jeju Island 63528, South Korea