Cafe and coffeehouses are clearly ingrained into the Korean culture where local coffee chains like Twosome Coffee, Angel in Us, and Dal Komm Coffee are found in every street and alley. Despite so, the locals are extremely supportive of the independent cafes and coffeehouses scene and in this week’s ZUJI Passport, we will give you a rundown of the highly recommended ones by the locals on SNS (better known as Social Media to the most of us).
Here’s to a true blue Korean cafe subculture experience; say Annyeongsaeyo to greater savings when you pay with Maybank with up to 6% rebates off flights/packages.
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1. Relieve Coffee
While it's Japanese counterpart emphasises on the cutesy and sometimes, outrageous cafe concepts, the Koreans favour cafes there are minimalistic. One of which that is surging in popularity is Relieve Coffee, that has 2 outlets in Gangnam and Itaewon respectively. There is nothing fancy here; everything in the design, menu and packaging is simple. But less is always more.
Based on a white theme and offering a basic selection of espresso beverages, Relieve Coffee is known for their Flat White, despite Americano being a favourite among the younger Korean crowds.
Gangnam Outlet Address: 서울특별시 강남구 역삼1동 812-17
Nearest Station: Gangnam Station (Line 2)
Itaewon Outlet Address: 24 Sowol-ro 38-gil, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Nearest Station: Noksapyeong Station (Line 6)
2. Good Night Good Luck (굿나잇 앤 굿럭)
If you are a (huge) fan of cheesecake, you must not miss Good Night Good Luck. Situated in Sinsadong, this small yet cosy lifestyle cafe’s signature dessert is its 80% cheesecake. Served on their trademark electric blue plates, the cheesecake is rich in flavour and is well complemented with the tangy glazed red berries that makes every mouthful a refreshing one. Yums.
Though it is impossible to bring the cheesecake back to Singapore, you can choose from their selection of postcards and tote bags that features their iconic cheesecake design.
Address: 41 Nonhyeon-ro 161-gil, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, 서울특별시 South Korea
Nearest Station: Sinsa Station (Line 3)
3. Twoffice (투피스)
With a simple cafe layout and its menu scrawled on the tiles of its bar top, Twoffice is yet another minimalist cafe in Seoul except, it is a part cafe, part design studio concept.
If you are an avid art lover, make your way to the rooftop space that showcases the artwork of budding artists. End your leisure afternoon at the 5th floor, with a cup of their recommended Vienna Coffee.
Address: South Korea, 서울특별시 중구 을지로 230-1 5층 6층
Nearest Station: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (Line 2, 4, 5)
4. Gräddhyllan (그레트힐란)
Gräddhyllan is the go-to place for a chill afternoon in Itaewon. The 5-storey space is a cafe and furniture store concept which specialises in Swedish furniture. Cafe by day, bar by night, Gräddhyllan has one of the most coveted spots in Itaewon with a stunning panoramic view of the Namsan Tower and the Itaewon neighbourhood. If you decide that you want a different view, sitting indoors would still promise a just as gorgeous view.
However, the menu is on the pricey side in comparison to most cafes but hey, with a view like this? I'll make it an exception.
Address: 229-17 Itaewon 2(i)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Nearest Station: Itaewon Station (Line 6)
5. Florte Flower Cafe
There is no end to the Koreans’ obsession with flowers where there are shops selling dried pressed flowers (usually Baby’s breath, well, because aesthetics) and seriously, there is even a vending machine that sells bouquets of baby’s breath. Florte Flower Cafe brings this obsession to another level - as the name suggests, the dreamy cafe is filled with dried and artificial flowers in every corner.
Their menu includes flower infused tea and dishes, you can literally find a flower when you pull your cheesy panini apart. Don’t worry, besides being aesthetically pleasing, the flowers are edible.
Choose among the various flower crowns and bouquets that are available in store for a mini photoshoot during your meal. Don't be shy, we know that you will do it for the grams ;)
Address: 22 Sinchon-ro 6-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Nearest Station: Hongik University Station (Line 2)
Jeju didn’t get the ‘Hawaii of Korea’ nickname for nothing; being the largest offshore island of Korea, its picturesque beaches have been an inspiration to many cafe startups, some of which are Cafe Mani and Cafe Monsant.
6. Cafe Mani
If your ideal vacation in Jeju is lounging around lazily by the beach and admiring the blue hues of the sea while the waves crashes into the shoreline, Cafe Mani is the place to be. Sentosa may have the Tanjong Beach Club but the view of the sea from Cafe Mani is more breathtaking than one could ever imagine.
Large bean bags are placed at the cafe's patio, making it the ultimate spot for customers to relax and simply enjoy the extraordinary sea view right ahead - where the sky meets the ocean.
Afraid of getting a suntan? Head indoors and fret not, you can still get an extraordinary view of the beach. With mandarin oranges being a local specialty in Jeju, it is no wonder that Cafe Mani’s signature beverage is a cup of freshly brewed Mandarin Orange tea.
Address: 1112 Haemajihaean-ro, Gujwa-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea
7. Cafe Monsant 몽상
Cafe Monsant Aewol is the brainchild of popular KPOP idol, G-Dragon. It burst into the Korean cafe scene circa 2015 and has since been a must-go destination for G-Dragon fans. Being a G-Dragon fan and knowing that he is an ardent art lover, I can be sure that his cafe will not disappoint in its aesthetics.
Sure enough, I was in awe upon arriving at the cafe that was modeled as a huge glasshouse perched on top of a hill which overlooked the sea. Industrial designs seems to be the way to go for most Korean cafes, Cafe Monsant was of no difference.
Address: 2546 Aewol-ri, Aewol-eup, Cheju, Jeju-do, South Korea
Do away with those immature thoughts like: Oh my god, pink is for girls! The streets of Seoul are filled with oppas wearing pink baggy shirts, or to be exact, Rose Quartz (also the 2016 Pantone Colour of the Year). Itaewon’s Oneinamillion is one of the most distinctive pink themed cafes in Seoul that is flooding the Korean Instagram feeds. Don’t be surprised when you see a photoshoot taking place outside the cafe, some of the cafe staff are actually street fashion models!
Have a sweet tooth? Then Oneinamillion’s signature Baby Latte is for you! A cup of latte served with a generous dollop of Haagen Dazs ice cream, talk about creamy goodness.
Address: 684-62, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Nearest Station: Itaewon Station (Line 6)
9. Avec El Cafe (아베크엘)
Initially a lifestyle store that sold a selection of apparels and furnitures, the owners drawn their inspiration from the Japanese Muji-style stores and decided to expand their operations into a cafe.
Though its location may not be as convenient as the rest, this charming cafe is worth a visit, to appreciate the effort that the couple has put into their lifestyle shop/cafe, be it their interior, menu and curated lifestyle goods that makes it a perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of the main streets.
What makes it stand out from the other cafes is its unique menu of fruit flavoured coffee. A slice of their respective fruits will top the frothy foam of the coffee.. Are you screaming internally about how pretty the coffee are? I am. *screams*
Address: 1F, 41-1, Huam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea
Nearest Station: Seoul Station (Line 1, 4)
10. 47 Tea House
Now that we have covered so many modern cafes and coffeehouses, it is only fitting that we introduce a traditional Korean tea house to experience a truly Korean culture. Residing in the narrow alleys of Insadong, 47 Teahouse has a rustic Hanok design that is rather common in Insadong, which is a walking distance from the Bukchon Hanok Village.
Instead of serving coffee and pastries, you can choose from an extensive variety of traditional Korean tea confectionery, better known as Hangwa.
Address: 47-9 Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu
Nearest Station: Anguk Station (Line 3)
Bonus: Starbucks Famille Park
Yes, we know that Starbucks is not a Korean brand but we have to give special mention to this particular outlet at Famille Park in Seoul. It was built back in 2014 to commemorate Starbucks’ 15th year anniversary in Korea and since then, its impressive dome design has been garnering lots of attention from locals and tourists alike.
If you are an avid collector of Starbucks merchandise you will be pleased to know that the Famille Park outlet has a wide range of merchandises from the different Korean cities and provinces.
Address: Seoul, Seochu-gu, Banpo-dong 118-3 (Sapyeong-daero 205)
Nearest Station: Express Bus Terminal Station (Line 3, 7, 9)
While most of us Singaporeans prefer cafes with wild or unique concepts that usually involves animals, the Koreans prefer cafes that serves quality over quantity; minimalism over outrageous concepts. Make a date with one of these cafes during your next trip to Korea to experience the real (Korean) deal when it comes to cafehopping!
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