by Ashley Heil
While coffee shops are everywhere in Seoul and there are many great ones, sometimes it can be hard to find good coffee that isn't super weak or watered down. Furthermore, as a girl that is used to getting $2.30 iced coffee from Starbucks in America, it was unusual at first to go into a coffee shop to ask for an iced coffee and be given an iced Americano like it's the same thing. (For those of you that don't know, an Americano is espresso with water, while an iced coffee is brewed coffee over ice). Starbucks here in Korea is the only place I know of that actually offers regular iced coffee, but a venti at Starbucks costs 5,500 won, vs only $2.95 in America. Sure, there are also some great places for dutch coffee (similar to cold brew coffee) in Seoul but they are normally at least 6,000 won. So, for a while I succumbed to drinking cheap Americanos or Lattes, not wanting to pay the price for a good coffee. And then we found Finn Bell.
While walking around the Sookdae area one night, my friends and I stumbled across Finn Bell coffee. It looked warm and inviting, and we decided to give it a try. Since then, Finn Bell has been our go-to coffee shop to meet up with friends or get some studying in. They have a very large menu with different coffee drinks, teas, aides, and even some alcoholic drinks (wine and sangrias for 5,000!). Additionally, they have probably the best and most fairly-priced bakery I've found in Seoul with delicious cookies, brownies, breads, and cakes. Also, if you order certain items like brownies, they will put it on a plate and heat it up for you. Their cookies are only 2,000 won and aren't hard as a rock like some other cookies I have tried.
However, the main thing that's kept us going back to Finn Bell for is for their coffee of course. While most other coffee shops charge around 6,000-8,000 for a dutch coffee, Finn Bell's is only 4500. They also do a delicious dutch latte for only 4500, as well as a specialty drink called the 'finn bell coffee" which is their dutch latte mixed with espresso, and with a little bit of syrup for sweetness. It's delicious. Finally, Finn Bell has a stamp card where you only need 5 stamps in order to get a free drink (any drink you want besides the alcoholic drinks). If you're a person that likes to go to a coffee shop regularly to study or hang out, then this might be the place for you.
From 숙대역 (Sookmyung womens university stop) exit 9, go out and turn right on the first street you see. Go down the alley and cross the next big road. Then walk up the road on the left hand side. Keep walking until you see the shabu shabu restaurant. Walk past that, and turn on the small alley way before the restaurant called Nodabowl and then turn right on the next small road. Finn bell is right there on your left.
Coffee is everywhere in Seoul. On any given street, there might be 10 different coffee shops and this is normal. On top of that, Seoul is also home to the most Starbucks stores in the entire world. At the moment, there are about 300 stores in Seoul. As Korean people start to enjoy coffee more and more, the number of shops increase daily as people try to cash in on the coffee craze. Normally I would say more coffee is a good thing, but in a sea of coffee shops many are not serving high-quality coffee. Many coffee shops care far more for design, and ambiance, than the quality of the coffee. Fortunately, in the midst of many mediocre coffee shops, Seoul also has truly great ones. EP3 Black Essence, near Gyeongbokgung, is one of these shops. I'm sort of addicted to coffee, so during the last year I traveled throughout Seoul trying to find the best coffee. Out of my caffeine-fueled explorations, however, I have discovered only a handful of places that have really blown me away and EP3 is in this elite group. The easiest way to get to EP3 is to take the subway to Gyeongbokgung Station and take exit 2. All you have to do is walk straight, and the shop is about 5 minutes down the road on your left. The interior of the shop is dark and modern. Coffee drip towers are everywhere, and it sort of looks like a defense against the dark arts classroom. Bags of fresh coffee beans sit piled next to roasters and grinders, and the smell of freshly ground coffee fills the air. I have been to EP3 at least 5 times, but I always order either the dutch café latte or dutch coffee. In South Korea, dutch coffee is more common than cold brew coffee. Both brewing methods, however, produce excellent tasting coffee if executed correctly. Unfortunately, a lot of places don’t serve any sort of iced coffee, let alone dutch coffee or cold brew. I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked into a coffee shop, asked if they have iced coffee, been stared at as if I was confused, and then told yes we have Ice Americano. As most of you know, these two drinks are completely different. Both of them are cold, but that’s where the similarities end. The dutch coffee at EP3 is incredible, but it’s very strong. The coloration is a deep dark brown and the mouthful reminds me of chocolate milk. The taste is strong, the aroma is strong, but the overall experience is wonderful. Many coffee shops in Seoul serve watered down, weak coffee. Discovering EP3 and drinking truly strong coffee for the first time in months was like having an epiphany. I almost forgot what good coffee tasted like. If you like great coffee, EP3 is a must visit.
Take the subway to Gyeongbokgung Station (Line #3)
Leave from exit #2
Walk straight for about 5 minutes
EP3 will be on your left