Fancy a cuppa? Where to find freshest brews“Classic” is often defined as the most refined mode of every art form, be it in music or style. In the trends and evolution of coffee in Korea as well, shops that offer classic “drip coffee,” from beans roasted and brewed in-house, are increasingly popular among urban trendsetters. Often the shops are individually-owned and run in unexpected neighborhoods by the top baristas in town, catering to a small but tasteful crowd.
Hong Seong-dae, the editor of the monthly “Coffee” magazine, has chosen six shops in and near Seoul that offer some of the finest coffee in town.
1. Jeon’s Coffee Academy
* (02) 778-0595 / Myeongdong
Jeon’s Coffee Academy is a dabang, or Korean old-style cafe, which serves coffee from fresh-roasted beans. Located in a dingy alley behind the Pacific Hotel in Myeongdong, it is far from the fashionable decor of coffee shops in southern Seoul. You can easily miss the shop’s humble sign on a street crowded with meat joints and beer hofs in the city’s old town.
The shop is run by one of the nation’s top coffee roasters, Jeon Kwang-soo, who now works mainly as an instructor after more than 10 years in the field. The shop, which is also his school, still has a few tables for coffee lovers to taste the freshly brewed coffee and, despite its secluded location, still attracts visitors from across the country.
Jeon’s coffee is a bit stronger than in other shops, but the quality of the beans has been praised by the top coffee critics in Seoul. Prices range from 4,000 to 5,000 won.
At the roasting academy, Mr. Jeon teaches the techniques of cupping, blending and brewing throughout the week.
2. Fullcity Coffee
* (031) 706-2080 / Bundang
This elegant cafe is named after a famous coffee blend, and sells freshly-brewed coffee roasted in a Probat machine, which is known as “the Mercedes Benz of roasters.”
Prices for drip coffee start at 5,000 won; the shop serves a free piece of cake with every cup. Coffee beans cost 6,000 won per 100 grams of Fullcity House Blend, a mix of Columbian, Brazil, Mocahara and Kenya beans.
To get to the shop, take exit 5 from Seohyeon Station on the Bundang Line and walk to the Saemaul Undong Central Training Institute.
3. Cafe Namusairo
* (02) 6352-6358 / Gwanghwamun
The cafe, which moved to downtown Seoul from a quiet campus district near Seoul National University in spring of 2005, offers shade-grown organic coffee that is freshly roasted every morning.
In a Tuscan-styled interior, the shop sells up to 15 types of coffee ― made either by an espresso machine or by the drip method ― including the house brand, “Namu Coffee.” The shop also sells roasted beans and Christmas cakes (carrot, cheese and chocolate).
It is located opposite the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency in Gwanghwamun. To get there, take exit 7 from Gyeongbokgung Station on line No. 3, and walk toward the police agency.
4. Coffee Jiin
* (02) 546-6035 / Sinsa-dong
Coffee Jiin, which means “close friends” in Korean, is a shop near Dosan Park south of the river that specializes in drip coffee made from Arabica beans, which make up 80 percent of the world’s coffee production. The beans are roasted at the shop twice a week, and kept no longer than 15 days.
Jiin offers variations of espresso and “Dutch coffee,” also a drip type typically drank in summer, which is made over 10 to 12 hours with cold water. For their branch in Bundang contact (031) 711-7035.
5. Coffee Maru
* (02) 5446-6035 / Sinjeong-dong
For customers not fond of strong coffee, it’s recommended that you tell the server at Maru in advance. The shop, which is on Rodeo Street in Mokdong, specializes in drip coffee that’s particularly strong and thick in texture. It also sells freshly roasted beans (Columbia, Yemen, Tanzania and Kenya), charging 7,000 to 10,000 for 100 grams.
* (02) 782-7970 / Yeouido
Jubin specializes in “neldrip” coffee, using a special filter fabric to give a deeper, smoother taste. A branch in Yeouido was recently opened; its first shop is in Sinsa-dong.
In a neighborhood that is considered a paradise of coffee chains (Yeouido has just about every major coffee chain in Seoul, including Starbucks, Pascucci and Coffee Bean), Jubin is increasingly visited by coffee-mad office workers.
Recommended varieties include Costa Rica and El Salvador, which are imported from coffee farms certified by the top 24 coffee appraisers in the world. The cafe also sells espresso and roasted beans (For 100 grams, the shop charges from 7,000 to 10,000 won). It is located on the second floor of Lotte Castle near the Yeouido subway station, line No. 5.
by Park Soo-mee