by Ashley Heil and Michael Jones.
Coffee is huge in South Korea and the citizens of Seoul have thousands of options to choose from. In 2014, Starbucks had more stores in Seoul than any other city in the world and I’m sure that number is far higher today. Whether you like Starbucks or not, one thing is for certain, Korean people love coffee and the market is huge. With all of this money up for grabs there are bound to be many bad coffee shops, those rushing to cash in, and some hidden gems sprinkled throughout the city. The kind of places where they roast their own beans, have relationships with the farmers they buy from, and genuinely care about serving the greatest coffee to the customer. Over the past year and a half we’ve gone to more coffee shops than we can possibly keep track of. Over this time, however, we have found a few spectacular places hidden in a sea of mediocre coffee. Currently, here are our favorite shops in Seoul, in no particular order.
Note: Of course there are other great coffee shops in Seoul including Coffee Libre, Anthracite, and Coffee Lab, but below are some coffee shops that are maybe a little bit less widely known, and still just as great in our opinion.
1. The Lumberjack, Buam Dong
Great coffee, and even better tea and ade drinks. The green tea latte is one of the best we've had in Seoul, and the Orange Ade is humongous and loaded with tons of real orange slices. The interior of this coffee shop is also great; it's decked out in wood, earth tones, corrugated metal fixtures, and old books. The café is two stories and the atmosphere was great. It might be my favorite interior out of any café I’ve been to in Seoul, and I’ve been to a lot. For a longer review check out this page http://seoulfoodenvy.weebly.com/coffee-envy/coffee-and-dessert-in-buam-dong-scoff-and-lumberjack
Directions: From Gyeongbokgung station, take the 7022 or the 7016 bus to Buam Dong. From around Sookmyung women’ university, take the 1711 or the 7016 bus. Scoff and Lumberjack will be next to the large 7-11 near the bend in the road. If you get dropped off before the tunnel the stores will be on your right. If you get dropped off at the top of the hill, near the Espresso Club, walk down the hill towards the 7-11 and after passing it Lumberjack and Scoff will be on your left.
2. Cafe Jass, Gyeongbokgung.
A chain, but we checked out the location near Gwanghwamun. Here, the dutch cafe latte was great, and the prices are even better. They also have delicious espresso drinks, teas, smoothies, and ades. Check out their website for more information and more locations http://cafejass.co.kr/?page_id=12189
3. Finn Bell Coffee, Sookmyung Womens University
This is a great coffee shop in a college area near Sookmyung University with great prices. This coffee shop has one of the cheapest dutch lattes in town as well, at only 4500. They also have great cookies, scones and other baked goods to munch on while you drink delicious coffee drinks, teas, ades, wine, and sangria. Finally, they have a stamp card system where you only need 5 stamps until you can get any coffee drink for free. Check out our previous review on Finn Bell for more information http://seoulfoodenvy.weebly.com/coffee-envy/finn-bell-coffee
Directions: 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.
4. Pancake Epidemic, Sinsa
Pancake Epidemic is our favorite coffee shop in Seoul. This coffee shop is the only coffee shop we've found in Seoul that does actual cold-brew coffee, instead of dutch coffee (they are slightly different). The cold-brew is rich, dark, smooth, and extremely flavorful. They brew it by the gallons, and they serve it on tap. Additionally, Pancake Epidemic brews Stumptown Coffee, arguably the most famous coffee roaster in America. Hence the name, Pancake Epidemic also serves pancakes, but we have yet to try them. All of the coffee at Pancake Epidemic is incredible, and it's a must try for coffee lovers.
Directions: The directions are a bit tricky to explain, but it is in between Apgujeong and Apgujeong Rodeo station. Please refer to the map below for directions.
5. 100 Year Coffee, Hongdae (백년커피)
The interior of this coffee shop is absolutely beautiful. All wooden interior, really interesting atmosphere, good lighting, and the coffee is fantastic. This is one of my top 3 coffee shops for sure. The dutch latte is maybe the best I've had in Seoul. It was rich, creamy and strong.
Directions: From Hongdae station Line 2 exit 2, come out and take a left out of the exit. Go straight until the T intersection, then take a right. The coffee shop will be a little ways down on the left.
6. Deniro Coffee, Sangsu area
Deniro is a great coffee shop located in the Sangsu/Hapjeong area. When you walk in, you immediately see a comfortable atmosphere and smell freshly ground coffee being made. The iced cafe latte for 5,500 won here is superb. It has just the right amount of sweet and creamy milk, but also perfectly balanced with the rich coffee. They also serve a fabulous Irish coffee and kahlua coffee for those who are looking for more of an after-dinner drink. Inside, they collect coffee bags from some of the most famous coffee roasters in America and it really adds a nice touch to the atmosphere. The furniture is comfortable, and the lighting is really relaxing. I highly recommend you check Deniro coffee shop out!
Go to Sangsu Station and take exit #1
Walk straight out of the exit
Continue walking for 5-10 minutes
Walk through the intersection @ Dokmak Ro 7 Gil
Then turn right immediately before the Hyundai store
At the first intersection take a left
Then take the first right onto Yanghwa Ro 6 Gil
In about a minute, Deniro Coffee Roasters will be on your left
7. 5Ci-Jung Coffee (오시정 ), Samcheongdong
5Ci-Jung Coffee is a super cute cafe in the chic neighborhood of Samcheongdong, located to the east of Gyeongbokgung palace. Its name means "Heart of writing five poems", and they are famous for healthy treats like ginseng milk and persimmon yogurt. We didn't try any of these treats, but opted for some coffee and desert.The iced cafe latte (7,000) was awesome, but what gives this cafe the unique edge is that every drink you order comes with a delicious scone. This scone is probably the best scone we've had since coming to Korea. It's served warm, flaky, moist, and just a tad sweet. It is served with butter and a banana-orange marmalade on the side. We also got the Fondant au Chocolat (8,300), which is mind-blowing. It's served with a bowl of bananas and grapes, and smooth vanilla ice cream, along with a small chocolate cake with warm vanilla filling. 5Cijung is filled with natural light, and is the perfect place to study at or go on a date. Additionally, 5cijung has some locations at City hall, and Sinsa, but the location in samcheongdong is the only one we've been to that does the free scones (however the location near City Hall does have slightly cheaper prices).
Go to Anguk Station (line 3) Exit 6
In about 50 yards take a right at the crosswalk
You will walk straight for a while (It's a nice walk though)
You will pass lots of shops, restaurants, the occasional street musician
When you get to the Street Churros on your right keep going straight across the road
Then take a left at the Kiehl's store
Walk down that street until it gets to the main road
Cross the main road and then walk to the right (slightly uphill)
The coffee shop will be on your left side at the back of a parking lot
And across the street from the sunflower and hot air balloon mural
8. The Standard Coffee Bar, Gangnam
What drew us to this coffee shop was the atmosphere. Located in a popular neighborhood of Gangnam (just down the road from Brick Oven Pizza), this coffee shop is cozy and full of natural light from the balconies and open windows. The inside feels a bit like a barn, with rustic wooden planks and wooden beams above. As you've probably been able to tell so far, we're obsessed with iced coffee in particular, so we got the dutch latte. The dutch latte was strong, rich and creamy and definitely one of the best we've had in Seoul. While the coffee was great, it was really the atmosphere that made us love this shop. While there it's easy to forget you're just outside one of the busiest spots in a city with 20 million people. If you're looking for a place to relax with a great coffee to escape the busy Gangnam streets, this is the place to go.
For a more in-depth review, please check out this link: http://seoulfoodenvy.weebly.com/coffee-envy/the-standard-coffee-bar
Go to Gangnam Station and take Exit #11
Walk straight until you see the tall CGV (movie theatre)
Then take a right
Walk straight up the hill
The cafe is at the second intersection
9. EP3 Black Essence, Gyeongbokgung area
In Korea, the coffee to foreigners often is quite weak, and the only iced coffee available are watery or too milky iced americanos and iced lattes. However, the coffee at EP3 is one of the only places we have found that is quite strong, but still delicious. We always order the iced dutch latte or a regular iced dutch coffee when we go, and the coffee color in both is a deep dark brown, with a smooth chocolaty taste. The interior of EP3 is dark and modern, bags of coffee sit piled next to grinders and roasters in the front, and the great smell of coffee is everywhere. If you need a good pick-me-up in the Gyeongbokgung area, this is the place to come to.
For a more in depth review, please check out this link: http://seoulfoodenvy.weebly.com/coffee-envy/coffee-at-ep3-black-essence
Directions: Take the subway to Gyeongbokgung Station (Line #3)
Leave from exit #2
Walk straight for about 5 minutes
EP3 will be on your left
10. The Berkeley Coffee Social, Kyungridan
The Berkeley Coffee Social is a small, but comfortable and laidback coffee shop in the Kyungridan area near Noksapyoung station. They brew fantastic lattes and dutch coffees, as well as serving other delicious drinks, including wine. The owner is really friendly and great to talk to about all the different coffee brews and blends they use. If you're in the Itaewon/Noksapyoung area and in need of a great coffee shop a little bit away from all the crowds, then this is the place to come to. Here is a link to their facebook page and a map to their location. https://www.facebook.com/berkeleycoffeesocial/
Some basic directions: Come out of exit 2 of Noksapyoung station, and keep walking until you get to the underpass. Go underneath, and go out the exit to the left. Cross the approaching street, and turn up it to the right. At the next Y intersection, take a left. And keep walking up the hill. You will then turn right on the next street, and the coffee shop will be in a little ways on the left.
Thanks for reading our review. Please, comment with some of your favorite coffee shops below! While this is just a list of our favorites and our most-frequented places we go, of course, there are many great coffee shops in Seoul. If you haven't tried some of these places, go try them, and let us know what you think!