Navigating Coffee Culture An Expats Guide to South Korea

Image for Navigating Coffee Culture An Expats Guide to South Korea

Welcome expatriates to the rich tapestry of coffee culture in South Korea! Our guide aims to provide insights and tips for navigating the local coffee scene, making it easy for expats to immerse themselves in South Korea's coffee traditions and customs. Regardless of what type of coffee drinker you are, whether you prefer your coffee strong, sweet, or a mixture of both, South Korea has got you covered. South Korea's coffee culture is a blend of old and new, with traditional coffee shops mixing seamlessly with modern cafes. Our article is specially curated for expats interested in South Korea's coffee culture and offers unparalleled access to the country's diverse coffee scene.

Understanding Coffee Origins and Production

As an expat, you might be surprised to learn that South Korea does indeed grow coffee! While coffee production in the country remains relatively small in comparison to other neighboring regions in Asia, it's still worth exploring. South Korea mainly grows Robusta and Arabica coffee beans. Robusta beans are predominantly grown in the southern provinces such as Jeju, Gyeongsangnam-do, and Gyeonggi-do. They have a more bitter taste and higher caffeine content than Arabica beans. Arabica coffee beans, on the other hand, are mainly grown in the northern provinces of Gangwon-do, Gyeonggi-do, and Jeju's more mountainous regions. These beans have a sweeter taste and aroma than Robusta beans.

If you're a coffee connoisseur, you might want to explore local coffee plantations and farms. One such farm, Jeju Coffee Pant Plantation, is South Korea's largest coffee plantation and offers guided tours and coffee tastings. Expatriates can learn about coffee production from start to finish, including picking the ripe coffee cherries, the roasting process, and traditional coffee brewing methods, such as lotus leaf brewing.

Embracing Favorite Coffee Style Drinks

South Korea offers expats a diverse array of coffee style drinks. One popular coffee style is the Bingsu Coffee. It's a caffeinated take on traditional Korean Bingsu. This iced shaved ice dessert comes with a cup of coffee, which you can pour over the Bingsu to make a refreshing and caffeinated drink during hot summer days. Another popular coffee style in South Korea is the Matcha latte, which combines the flavors of matcha powder and delicate coffee aroma. Another old coffee favorite is the Cha Yen (Thai Ice Tea coffee), where the Thai Ice Tea is infused with a shot of coffee.

South Korea is also home to some unique coffee styles that are gaining in popularity. One such coffee style is the carbonated coffee, where the coffee drink is infused with carbonated water, giving it a refreshing effervescence, akin to soda. The gongjatong (Tall Curtain coffee) is another South Korean coffee style that is popular during the winter season, which blends strong coffee, condensed milk, and a generous scoop of sweet soft cotton candy at the top, providing a delightful combination of textures and tastes.

Embracing Coffee Drinking Customs and Traditions

Coffee drinking customs and traditions are an integral part of South Korea's coffee culture, and expats are encouraged to learn about and respect them. One such coffee tradition is the morning routine, where an individual pours a small cup of hot coffee, gently inhaling its aroma to start the day, even before taking a sip. This morning coffee ritual, called 'Inreu', is a simple yet significant part of South Korean life.

Coffee shops and cafes in South Korea are a hub of social interaction too. From catching up with friends, deep conversations with colleagues, or a quick tea party, it's common to see locals in these establishments. However, just like any cultural norm worldwide, there are coffee etiquettes that expats should follow when visiting these establishments. Firstly, it's customary to take off your shoes before entering a casual Korean coffee shop. Secondly, online ordering through Kakao Pay or other platforms is popular in Korean coffee shops, and expats are encouraged to embrace this payment method.

Essential Coffee Spots for Expats in South Korea

For expats looking to explore more coffee spots in South Korea, here are some recommendations they might find helpful:

  • A Twosome Place (Two-and-six) Hanok: It's a traditional Korean house-turned-coffee shop in the Bukchon Hanok village in Seoul. A cozy spot to experience a blend of coffee culture and Korean culture.
  • KStar Perks: A K-Pop-themed coffee shop with branches across Seoul, where expats can enjoy coffee and delicious K-Pop merchandise.
  • Hope Cafeteria (얼굴로는얘하Method Cafeteria): It's a social café located in Budang Rorient, offering a space for expats to connect with the local community through social cafe club activities.
  • Medianeko: Located at Hongdae in Seoul, this café provides a blend of Korean and Japanese coffee culture, showcasing a warm interior design and delightful coffee.
  • Green Door Coffee: Located in the Mapo district of Seoul, this café offers a chic and minimalist interior ambiance that appeals to the coffee enthusiast.

In conclusion, South Korea's coffee culture is full of promise for expats, providing them with diverse coffee styles, customs, and traditions, a vibrant coffee shop scene, and an opportunity to connect with the local community. Be sure to follow the coffee customs and traditions, and sample the unique coffee styles, like carbonated coffee, which are unique to South Korea's coffee culture. Our guide has provided ample insights and tips for navigating South Korea's coffee scene, and we encourage you to explore and immerse yourself in this rich tapestry of coffee culture. Happy coffee journey in South Korea!