Neither of us were the biggest coffee drinkers back home, but we do take part in drinking coffee in Korea. There is a certain coffee culture in Korea — a lot of time is spent drinking coffee and tea with friends. The coffee that we find here is a bit different and not quite what we expected. While I don’t drink coffee daily, I do enjoy a good dose of caffeine every now and again.
In Korea, you will find coffee shops and cafes everywhere. Even in our tiny, rural town, we have 3 coffee shops. In the neighboring town, there are at least 8 that I know of. Coffee shops seem to be a popular place to spend time with friends and family, often late into the evening. Many coffee shops back home seemed to close between 9-10 pm on a weekend night, but here, they are often open until 11 or 12! In the cities, there are many 24-hour coffee shops and cafes as well.
In our everyday encounters, coffee seems to be everywhere. If you go to a meeting or event at school, you’re always offered coffee. Many stores also have a coffee station set up in the entrance way. Everyone seems to love their coffee!
When it comes to coffee, we were most surprised to find out that instant coffee is a popular thing in Korea! Back home, I always avoided instant coffee because I assumed it would taste badly. Here, you almost always drink instant coffee (unless you go to a coffee shop). There are several brands and flavors, but two seem to be the most common. It’s nice because you only need to add hot water to enjoy — but most coffee packs are very sweet and full of sugar.
One great thing about visiting coffee shops in Korea, is that the menus are pretty easy to decipher. If you can read hangul, the Korean alphabet, you’re in luck. Most items on coffee shop menus in Korea include English words, written in hangul — often referred to as Konglish. For example “cafe mocha” and “cafe latte” are items that can be ordered at any Korean coffee shop.
Below, I’ve included a picture of a menu at one of our favorite coffee shops in our town. If you look at the first menu item, it lists “espresso” as an option. You can order most things with ice or as a hot beverage. Once you learn the Korean alphabet, you’ll learn that certain sounds like “ff” in coffee don’t exist, and instead a “p” sounds is used.
While in Korea, you may also see a lot of coffee shops and cafes that have dogs or cats inside. These dog cafes and cat cafes are very popular. You can enjoy a coffee or a snack and spend time playing with the animals. While we have yet to take part in this experience, we see these types of cafes often,especially, in busy city areas.
No matter what town or city you visit while in Korea, you’re sure to stumble along a unique coffee shop to enjoy. While the coffee culture in Korea may be a bit different than it is back home, it’s an enjoyable experience.