cafes and coffee in Korea
Jul. 1, 2012 8:14 pm
Updated: Jul. 15, 2012 11:29 pm
If you visit South Korea, you will be surprised at something that you would never expected to see: millions of cafe lining on the street. You will see countless Cafes almost every block in Seoul. When I make an appointment with my friends, we say “Let’s
meet at a cafe at 8pm.” If we have lunch or dinner together, we go to a café after meal to have more talk.
The coffee culture in Korea is not restricted to young adults like me. My grandfather drinks coffee in the morning and after lunch. However, the types of coffee that Koreans enjoy vary among different generations. For example, my generation in their 20s
and 30s prefers to drink coffee from international brands , which are starbucks, coffeebean, as well as Korean franchise brands such as caffé bene, pascucci, angel-in –us, tom n toms, hollys coffee etc. My parents’ generation and grandparents’ generation are
more use to instant coffee from vending machine or coffee mix.
It is known that Gojong, the emperor of Korea, first drank coffee while he was in Russia for Korea royal refuge at the Russian legation in 1896. In the very early 20th century, coffee was first introduced to Korea public. A Korean movie Gabi was recently
released, so you can sense the contemporary atmosphere and historic event during that time period. Gabi is what Koreans used to call coffee back then. It sounds pretty similar!
The introduction of instant coffee was after the Korean War by the American soldiers. They brought chocolates, instant coffee and exotic American products to Korean. The popularity of instant coffee in Korea rose with the introduction of vending machines in
1980s. My parents generations became accustomed to the taste of instant coffee from the vending machines.
In 1999, the first starbucks opened in Seoul near Ehwa women’s University, which was considered to be the most trendy place in South Korea. Young adults loved the coffee at Starbucks and drinking starbuck coffee became a trendy thing to do. The price of
coffee at Starbucks was almost as same as the average price of lunch. It jumped from 30cents instant coffee to 4 dollars starbucks coffee. Some people could not understand the young ladies who spend money on 4 dollars coffee instead of 30 cents, so they started
to call them as‘deonjangnye’(soybean paste lady). I think people chose soybean paste because it is the most Korean food and contrast with American brand.
Nowadays, Koreans’ taste and knowledge of coffee has been widened, so people have their own preference and often drink several cups of coffee a day. My dad prefers cappuccino, mom likes café latte, sister drinks Americano, and I love white chocolate mocha.
This development of coffee in Korea was possible due to the increased number of cafes. Most food companies and many individuals open a café. The popularity of cafés in Korea (including Korean ones) is reaching abroad as well. Caffé bene recently opened in
NYC and their misugaru latte(grinded grain powder latte) is very popular. Other cafes launched in China as well. I hope to see more Korean cafes around the world. If you see a Korean cafes, try their coffee and other awesome drinks like misugaru latte!