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Coffee and conversations are a powerful blend, one that bridges the gap between cultures, uniting people over the tantalizing aroma and taste of a well-crafted cup of joe. South Korea has surged onto the coffee scene in recent years, opening a treasure trove of artisan cafes and concept stores that have reinvigorated the coffee culture, with each establishment’s unique flair offering an unforgettable experience to coffee enthusiasts, casual drinkers, and curious foodies alike.
Whether it’s the intricate latte art, innovative beverage concoctions, or fascinating stories behind the birth and growth of these establishments, the South Korean coffee scene has something for everyone. So, grab your favorite reusable coffee tumbler and embark with me on a journey to discover the best coffee shops in South Korea, where your senses will be flooded with a delightful symphony of flavours, art, and culture.
Seoul, has truly embraced the Korean coffee culture, and I’ve been fortunate enough to explore some of the best cafes this vibrant city has to offer. Seoul’s thriving coffee scene is a delightful mix of traditional Korean aesthetics and modern design, providing a warm and welcoming atmosphere to both locals and visitors alike.
During my stay, I found that specialty coffee shops offered not only quality brews but also a unique ambiance, reflecting the artistic and innovative spirit of the city. One such example is Felt Coffee, a minimalist café boasting excellent service and a simple yet delicious menu. Their original branch near Shinchon subway station, and the newer location at Gwanghwamun subway station, have quickly garnered a stellar reputation among coffee enthusiasts.
Another hidden gem is Namusairo, tucked away near the Gwanghwamun subway station in a quiet street. This café, housed in a traditional Korean Hanok, has been serving quality specialty coffee for over 16 years. Their elaborate menu offers a wide range of single-origin coffees and unique blends, making it a must-visit spot for coffee fanatics.
For something more intimate and conversation-inducing, Mesh Coffee is the perfect spot. Owned by coffee-enthusiast duo, this tiny café invites patrons to engage in lively discussions about all things coffee, while savoring their delicious light-roast offerings
Growing up in the 1980s, my love affair with coffee began when all we had was instant coffee sold in glass jars, mixed with powdered creamer and sugar. Maybe it was the aroma that mesmerized me or the perfect blend of bitter and sweet; I had tasted original sin and there was no going back for me.
Interestingly, historical lore traces the introduction of Korean coffee back to King Gojong (1852-1919) who developed a taste for the magical beverage while taking refuge at the Russian embassy in 1896 after the assassination of Queen Min (Empress Myeongseong). However, it’s likely that a few Korean officials had already tried coffee aboard foreign warships even before King Gojong.
Initially a luxury item, coffee became a symbol of Western culture and a status symbol for Korea’s elite and wealthy, including royals, politicians, businesspeople, artists, and intellectuals. The first cafes or “Dabangs”, venues where mostly non-alcoholic drinks were served, began to emerge during the Japanese colonial period, around 1923. These early cafes in Seoul evolved into gathering places for artists, writers, politicians, and intellectuals, with Antoinette Sontag, a German sister-in-law of the Russian consul general, being among the first to open a Dabang to serve foreign diplomats.
It wasn’t until the introduction of instant coffee during the Korean War by the U.S. military that coffee reached a wider audience, leading to the establishment of a rich café culture that we have today. South Korea has since embraced café culture in all its forms, ranging from quaint, privately-owned establishments to popular foreign franchises like Starbucks.
Whilst I’ve mentioned a few Korean coffee places worth visiting, lets dive into some of the best Korean coffee shops on the high street right now!
If there’s one thing I absolutely adore about Seoul, it’s the incredible cafe scene! From quirky themed cafes to sophisticated coffee joints, the city truly has something for everyone. One of my all-time favorite cafes in Seoul has to be Seoulism. Let me tell you why I love this place so much and why I believe it’s one of the best coffee shops in South Korea. Some may identify this as a new trendy ‘espresso bar‘, but it’s closer to a traditional stand alone coffee shop you’d encounter in Camden high street.
Seoulism is located in the Seongsu-dong neighborhood, just a short walk from Ttukseom Station. The cafe itself is quite spacious, boasting a mix of modern and industrial design elements. Think exposed brick walls, concrete floors, and wooden furniture – it’s a spot that’s both inviting and ultra-hip. But what really sets Seoulism apart from other cafes is its stunning rooftop terrace. With panoramic views of the city skyline, including the iconic Lotte World Tower, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a cup of coffee while taking in the sights of Seoul.
The coffee at Seoulism doesn’t disappoint either. They serve a variety of espresso-based drinks, along with single-origin pour-overs and nitro cold brews. For those who prefer caffeine-free options, the cafe also offers an array of herbal teas and refreshing fruit-infused beverages. Pair your drink with one of their delicious pastries or desserts, and you’ll be in heaven.
So, the next time you find yourself in Seoul with a craving for a good cup of Korean coffee and amazing views, be sure to check out Seoulism. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!
During my travels in South Korea, I stumbled upon one of the most unique and quirky coffee shops I’ve ever seen – the Poop Cafe, also known as Ddong Cafe. Located in the artsy shopping center of Ssamziegil, in the famous Insadong street, this cafe has successfully turned poop into something cute and adorable, as surprising as it may sound!
The cafe embraces the South Korean belief that poop symbolizes fortune and good luck. The moment you step inside, you’ll notice the poop-related decorations everywhere, from the cushions to the serving dishes, and even the food! The drinks and desserts are served in toilet-shaped mugs and plates, and sometimes the food itself resembles poop (in a cute, iconic form, of course).
Despite its peculiar theme, the atmosphere in Ddong Cafe is relaxed, cozy, and inviting. It’s a perfect spot to sit back and plan your day as you sip on a generous amount of coffee, adorned with flowers for an interesting touch to its flavor and aroma. Besides, the quality of the beverages and treats is surprisingly good, providing both a playful experience and satisfaction to your taste buds.
If you still have room for more poop-inspired treats, there’s a poop bread stand outside the cafe, offering cute poop-shaped pancakes filled with chocolate or red beans. I tried the chocolate-filled one, and it was scrumptious! If you ever visit Seoul, make sure to include a visit to the Poop Cafe – it’s not only amusing and entertaining, but also delivers a memorable story to tell your friends back home.
My trip to South Korea would never have been complete without visiting one of the best Korean coffee shops in Seoul – Anthracite Coffee Hapjeong. This unique and tastefully designed café is nestled in Hapjeong-dong, a quiet neighborhood that immediately gives you a warm and welcoming vibe. The industrial chic ambiance is complemented by the café’s impressive history as a former shoe factory, which adds a sense of character and authenticity to the place.
As I entered Anthracite, I instantly fell in love with its cozy atmosphere and beautiful décor. The mix of industrial elements and modern touches creates the perfect spot to unwind and catch up with friends over a cup of coffee. Not only do they serve amazing coffee, but their beer selection is also worth mentioning. The popular Butter Fat Trio easily became my favorite, and I absolutely appreciated the thought of naming their coffee roasts after famous authors like Natsume Sōseki and Pablo Neruda.
The sweetness of their visit, however, comes not just from the coffee but also from the delectable desserts. The in-house pastry chef bakes mouthwatering cakes, financiers, madeleines, and cookies on the premises, so you know you’re getting the freshest and most scrumptious goodies to satisfy your sweet cravings. The service was great, and the overall experience at Anthracite was unforgettable. If you’re ever in Seoul, do yourself a favor and visit this fantastic coffee shop. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!
Cafe Onion in Seongsu, Seoul is a must-visit spot for all coffee lovers and cafe hoppers. Located in the heart of the trendy Seongsu-dong neighborhood, this café is nestled amongst repurposed warehouses and art studios. It’s no surprise that Cafe Onion has risen in popularity, given its unique blend of industrial aesthetics and cozy interiors.
As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by warm lighting, high ceilings, and exposed brick walls that gave the cafe an authentic, rustic feel. Large windows allowed ample natural light to pour in, creating the perfect atmosphere for catching up with friends, getting some work done, or simply enjoying a delicious cup of coffee.
Among the various beverages on offer, I highly recommend trying their signature hand-drip coffee, which showcases the true art of brewing a perfect cup. The cafe also offers a fine selection of teas and freshly baked pastries, perfect for satisfying your cravings. I particularly enjoyed their croissants, which boasted a perfect flaky texture that melted in my mouth.
Cafe Onion Seongsu is not only about serving great coffee, but also about creating a memorable experience that will leave you coming back for more. The exceptional service, inviting ambience, and mouthwatering menu make it a must-visit destination in Seoul’s hippest neighborhood. So, if you ever find yourself in Seongsu-dong, don’t miss out on the unforgettable experience at Cafe Onion.
During my travels around South Korea, I stumbled upon the most incredible coffee shop in Seoul – C. Through Café. I discovered this hidden gem while exploring the vibrant hilltop neighborhood of Itaewon-dong, known for its young and artsy crowd. Hidden behind a hot pink door with a hand mark on it, C. Through Café is the brainchild of Lee Kangbin, a renowned latte artist who creates stunning works of art on cold beverages that will make your jaw drop
As soon as I walked in, I was struck by the cozy, industrially-chic ambiance of this small, yet charming cafe. The workspace resembled a cross between a laboratory and an art studio, filled with an array of tools and equipment for creating Lee’s famous “creamart.” Although Lee wasn’t present during my visit, his well-trained employees did an impressive job, serving up exquisite creamart creations in about 10-20 minutes per cup.
Unable to resist, I ordered a fall-themed creamart beverage (costing about $7), inspired by Seoul’s breathtaking autumn foliage. Made with cold Dutch coffee and a thin layer of creamy milk, the drink tasted like the perfect blend of light, milky ice cream with a hint of coffee. Meanwhile, my mother opted for a sinfully sweet and gooey Scotchno, infused with melted butterscotch candy and marshmallows.
What particularly impressed me at C. Through Café was that the stunning aesthetics of the coffee were equally matched by its rich, delightful taste. If you’re looking for an exceptional coffee experience in South Korea, look no further than the unforgettable C. Through Café – easily is one of the best Korean coffee shops around.
Aside from the great bars in Hongdae, you might be surprised to know that there is a coffee shop dedicated to the famous animation One Piece…
That’s right my manga finds, if you’ve ever watched One Piece, you’ve probably fantasised about sipping anything on that ship. The ship’s exterior and interior are identical to those of The Going Merry, and you may buy more than just juice or coffee — you can even consume pastries shaped like the devil’s fruit.
As a huge One Piece Japanese anime fan, I was beyond excited to visit Cafe One Piece, located in the artistic hub of Hongdae, Seoul. This One Piece-themed café is a must-visit for fans like me! The exterior is easily spotted from afar, with a majestic ship model from the anime series welcoming you into its treasure trove of One Piece goodness.
From the moment I stepped through the gates, it felt like I had entered a unique universe filled with all my favorite One Piece characters in cut-out form, just waiting for me to snap some Instagram-worthy pictures with them. The first level of the café houses a merchandise shop, offering exciting, rare, and unique One Piece-themed items that you won’t find anywhere else.
The café itself is designed like a voyage ship, with every single thing, from the huge walls and doors to the smallest straws, adorned with the One Piece anime theme. Even the food and drinks have cute little pirate touches, like ship-shaped stirrers and pirate doodles on the plates. The devil fruit cake is a must-try – it’s so unique and delicious!
As an added bonus, the second floor of One Piece Café features an outdoor terrace resembling the deck of the Thousand Sunny. While seating is limited, it makes for an amazing photo opportunity and lets you take in the ambience of this incredible anime café. So, if you’re a One Piece fan visiting Seoul, this is probably one of the best places to visit as well as one of the best Korean coffee shops! Make sure not to miss out on this fantastic cafe!
A recent visit to Seoul wouldn’t be complete without visiting one of the best Korean coffee places – the much talked about Mouse Rabbit Coffee located in the Konkuk University area. This Korean coffee shop is run by Super Junior’s Yesung and his brother, which made it an interesting experience, especially if you’re a fan of the group.
Upon entering, I noticed the modern aesthetic and the three-story layout. The first floor is where you place your orders, and you can pick your drinks up at the counter. Interestingly, the menu is displayed on a computer monitor that also shows the song playing and has a video monitor focused on you, the guest.
I decided to explore more of the cafe and headed up to the second floor. There, I found interesting tables and chairs along with modern artwork that added to the ambiance. Be careful though, as the steps going up are a bit awkwardly spaced which might make carrying a tray of coffee quite challenging.
Now, for the most important part – the coffee. I ordered a latte and a cheesecake, both of which were decent but not too extraordinary. Although, my friend who ordered a chocolate tart absolutely loved it.
One thing that is greatly appreciated about Mouse Rabbit is that it doesn’t act like it’s owned by an idol, which is a refreshing experience. So, if you ever find yourself in the Konkuk University area, don’t hesitate to stop by and enjoy a cup of coffee at Mouse Rabbit Coffee. And remember, return your cups and plates to the pick-up counter on the first floor when you’re done.
South Korea has established itself as a haven for coffee enthusiasts and design aficionados alike with its myriad of minimalist, themed, and unique cafes. Both locals and international design lovers can’t help but be captivated by the blend of traditional and modern aesthetics found in these beautiful and inspiring spaces.
In recent years, various creative neighborhoods in cities such as Seoul and Busan have witnessed a boom in the opening of several coffee shops, each with a unique take on minimalist design principles. Notable cafes include the Saem Café, which boasts natural textures and open spaces, Cafe Oriente, where sleek design meets Korean heritage and warm, natural elements, and of course, Waveon Coffee, which beautifully maximizes sea views, offering an unforgettable experience for both tourists and locals alike.
For K-drama fans, South Korea also features a wide array of cafes and coffee shops that are regulars when it comes to on-screen appearances. Some of the most iconic spots include Helsinki Espresso Bar, Café Zino, Foresta Book Café, and White Birch Story Tea Café.
Overall, the South Korean coffee culture is not just about the coffee itself, but the artful design and unforgettable atmosphere that lingers in each of these outstanding destinations. These minimalist gems and K-drama hot spots are sure to offer a one-of-a-kind experience that your taste buds, as well as your eyes, will cherish for a lifetime. So, next time you find yourself craving a dose of caffeine and minimalist design in South Korea, you know just where to go!